Sonar is the best-known maritime sensor. It quietly listens to large swaths of the ocean and navigates through and detects objects on or under the water's surface. This sensitive listening device paints a vivid picture of the invisible world under the sea.
Whether by intention or by osmosis, two of the better listeners in leadership today can be found working at Newport News Shipbuilding. Jennifer Boykin, president, and Lucas Ceballos, a foreman on the deck, have a lot in common. They both mirror the technology they work to create. Newport News Shipbuilding is the world's largest builder of aircraft carriers and submarines, ships that rely heavily on sensors to function.
As leaders, Boykin and Ceballos have learned to function like sonar. They have finely tuned their mental sensors to monitor their environment. Boykin senses how everything in the shipyard fits and works together. Ceballos intuits what each mechanic needs, to win their hearts and minds. Like the sensitive instruments they build, they use their mental senses – listening, intuiting, and experiencing in real time – to become aware of the needs and concerns of their stakeholders.
Boykin leads 20 000 employees, spanning five different generations. As a child who grew up in an integrated neighborhood, she learned how to intuitively tailor her messages and tap the energy of diverse people. By activating her personal sensors, she learns what's important, what unique skills people ...