Admiral Hyman Rickover (1900-1986), the “Father of the Nuclear Navy,” was one of the most successful — and controversial — public managers of the 20th Century. His accomplishments are the stuff of legend. For example, in three short years, Rickover’s team designed and built the first nuclear submarine — the Nautilus — an amazing feat of engineering given that it involved the development of the first use of a controlled nuclear reactor. The Nautilus not only transformed submarine warfare, but also laid the groundwork for a whole fleet of nuclear aircraft carriers and cruisers (which was also built by Rickover and his team).
The text below is an excerpt from a speech Rickover delivered at Columbia University in 1982, in which he succinctly outlined his management philosophy. His determination, clarity of purpose, emphasis on developing his people, high standards, and willingness to give his people ownership of their work had to have been very inspiring. He had exceptionally high standards and was known to take some of these same strengths to extremes, however, which no doubt led to his reputation in some circles as being difficult to work for. On that cautionary note, GovLeaders.org is pleased to present Rickover’s own description of his management style.