HMS Scott stages leadership tests

Royal Navy sailors with leadership potential were put through their paces on board their own ship in an unusual move.

The group of future leaders were given the rare chance to prepare for the courses on board their own ship – in this case Plymouth-based ocean survey ship HMS Scott.

The potential leadership courses will put them on the first step of the promotion ladder as ratings and involve tests of leading groups in problem-solving.

HMS Scott is one of the larger Royal Navy ships and her command decided to offer the chance to prepare for tests within the large spaces on board.

Among the tests were guiding a colleagues as a group to safety blindfolded through a mock minefield using voice commands only and crossing a ravine to recover secret documents after a ‘plane crash’ using only two planks.

Lieutenant Heather O’Connell said: “These tests give the ship’s company looking at leadership courses the rare chance to practise their skills on board the ship in which they are serving because luckily we have the spaces needed for the exercises.”

These tests give the ship’s company looking at leadership courses the rare chance to practise their skills on board the ship in which they are serving

Lieutenant Heather O’Connell, HMS Scott

Lt Cdr O'Connell said the tests followed the Royal Navy’s emphasis on mentoring and coaching by senior or more experienced colleagues: “The key to good leadership is to have a plan, being clear and unambiguous in what you are seeking to achieve by giving clear audible orders towards an aim which everyone understands.

“Giving orders and leading is a particular challenge under stress when not everything is going to plan or events are fast moving and you are under time pressure with noise and distractions all round, especially at sea or during combat.

“The best leaders are not always those who want to do it all themselves or do things their way. We encourage the potential candidates to exploit the experience and knowledge of their teams in these tests.”

After a task the key to learning from the experience was to hold thorough briefings with analysis showing self-awareness of the roles the leaders played. Heather said: “We ask the leaders and the team to look at what they did well and badly and most importantly, how to improve.’’

Able Seaman Davies led the ravine test. He said: “It was very hard, but we got there in the end and it was rewarding. These tests are invaluable towards the leadership courses and ultimately promotion.”

The leadership hopefuls also had to present an assessed short talk on a subject of their choice to their peers and senior staff.

The actual leadership courses take place at the training establishment HMS Collingwood near Portsmouth.