Anchors: Ethical and Practical Maxims

Anchors: Ethical and Practical Maxims by Rafael C. Benitez (US Navy, January 1996)

A concise and practical tool for leadership in application, Anchors: Ethical and Practical Maxims was published with the express purpose of providing midshipmen with an accessible collection of the wisdom of their elders. Rear Admiral Benitez’s book hits the mark. This compact work, published over twenty years ago, has stood the test of time, its maxims are as impactful as ever. 

Anchors is a collection of 67 maxims for leadership. Benitez, a 1939 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, was a highly decorated submarine commander. In retirement from the navy, he served as the Pan American World Airways vice president forLatin America, an associate dean and director and founder of the University of Miami School of Law’s foreign graduate law program. Benitez built Anchors as a personal recollection, reflecting on the lessons he took from his three careers as a naval officer, business leader, and academic. And, Anchors exudes the author’s breadth of experience. Its maxims cover the gambit of challenges that young leaders face regardless of occupation.

The admiral identifies the transcendent, or spiritual, knowledge that serves as guideposts for effective and ethical leadership. From the grand (“Integrity requires consistency in both our public and private lives. Test yourself by asking: will my private life withstand public scrutiny?”) to the sublime  ( “Note the difference between an idea presented for your consideration and the means required for its implementation. Don’t reject the idea outright because resources are scarce or the capability to implement it is not readily apparent.”)  Readers will find a wealth of advice useful in the home, at the office, underway or in garrison. The subject matter covers the spectrum from social behavior to personnel management concerns and provides clear, powerful, time tested rules of thumb.

Readers will recognize the truth of the words from their own experiences—moments when they should have remembered: “Don’t turn trivial incidents into events of major proportions. Most problems yield or are minimized if approached rationally. Contribute to the solution and don’t become part of the problem.”

Circumspect, encouraging, mature and valid, each maxim carries facets with deep meaning more useful with every passing career milestone. This reader finds Anchors resonates with the older (wiser?) me even more than it did with the younger (leaner) me. Where the lieutenant finds an instruction booklet, the lieutenant colonel meets friendly reminders and the lieutenant general the confident encouragements of a kindred soul. The exceptional value in Anchors is its utility across multiple fields and across any field over time.

A must for any leader’s bookshelf, each maxim is a jumping off point for key lessons in leadership. Consider discussing any at a meeting or retreat.  Further, Anchors makes an appropriate gift for anyone preparing to step into a role of responsibility. Indispensable perspective for the daunting and intractable, Anchors prepares the reader to meet Admiral Benitez’s challenge to “discover the good in you and in those with whom you will share your life.”


Book review contributed by Lt. Col. Matthew R. Crouch, USMC.
Crouch is a Senior Military Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he holds master’s degrees in Political Science and International Business Administration and is an Olmsted Scholar. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of the US government or other organization.
Additional information about Matthew Crouch can be found at: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/expert/matthew-r-crouch/

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