Leadership! The Magic Sauce of a Successful Enterprise…

JB Burton Accomplished Defense Executive / Leadership Development /Operations / Strategy / Homeland Security/ CBRNE / CWMD

J B Burton, Essential Elements of Leadership  Reference link.

Taking the queue from the common sense and motivational article by J. B. Burton on leadership, following are the same critical talking points from his perspective, but offered from my own experience and education…  You can contrast and compare, but will find much agreement from many seasoned leaders who thrive on empowerment, entrepreneurship, innovation, and transparency.

IntegrityIndividual and Collective.  Leadership is earned by building a culture of trust and kindred spirits.  From the very beginning of my long career in many roles as a manager and executive, especially in relationships with customers, I took a personal oath to never sell my soul, or to compromise the higher goals and aspirations of the team or each individual in my circle of care and influence.  Power is not swinging your weight around and dictating to others, it is as a facilitator, helping others achieve their personal and career goals…and to have fun doing it.

Inspiration–Leaders are community builders of success.  We know that it takes a team to win.  We know that individual performance counts and must be celebrated.  Leaders behave as coaches, inspiring and teaching others to be the best of the best.  Leaders also learn from team members and love constructive dialog and actions that take the team to a higher level of performance and reward.  Leaders set the tone for ownership of goals and objectives, and never fail to be on hand to help the team as a whole to win, or spend quality time with each team member to inspire a higher level of performance.

Mentorship and Coaching:  Leaders know that organizational and individual accountability are critical success factors in any enterprise.  Working with team members and stakeholders to achieve buy-in for the larger vision, goals, and objectives is crucial to excellence in meeting targets both long and short term.  Just as important is consistent communications on the status of quantifiable objectives and in identifying what is required to fix short falls in meeting targets and expectations. Give and take interpersonal communications and trust are at the center of a consistently improving and high achieving enterprise.  The little things count and add up to winning the big game!

Learning:  Leaders are great listeners and learners.  We do not pretend to have all the answers.  We rely on collective impact and build a culture of learning and innovation. 

Discipline:  Effective leaders practice doing the right things, the right way, and at the right time.  There must be a quality assurance expectation of self and others.  Leaders model discipline in working each task as a critical step in achieving higher goals.  We practice preventative maintenance every step of the way, and promote a look back at lessons learned.

Dialogue–Internally and Externally.  One of the best ways to find out how your organization is perceived from the outside looking in, is ask a customer or a stakeholder.  It is easy to become self absorbed and complacent from the inside.  Build your outreach strategies and programs based on external input and from stakeholders, and from those around you on the inside.  Consistently revisit the question, “how are we doing?”  Look at how your competition does business and learn best practices.

Empowerment–Allow your team members the freedom to make mistakes and learn.  Coach your team and individual contributors to take ownership along the way.  Show them how to manage upward.  Never wait for the phone to ring!  Each member of your team should be a leader in bringing solutions to problems, ideas, and success stories to the top for optimum visibility, to reinforce others, and to inspire.  Confidence as a team and as an individual is critical to success.

Measures of Effectiveness and Accountability— Leaders must be very good at quantifying and measuring results and overall effectiveness.  We must look at symptomatic conditions that either lead to success or sometimes failure.  Fix the larger problem, do not put a patch on a symptom of a larger problem.  Measuring effectiveness should be a natural inclination of any successful enterprise.  I call it the culture of ownership!  We leaders are constantly looking at getting better just about every minute of the day…

I am often asked about the “magic sauce” of a highly successful team that seems to thrive consistently, even under tough circumstances.  It is in the hearts and minds of kindred spirits that make an enterprise the best it can be.  It is in the above points on the elements of effective leadership that represent the custom development of a specific recipe for your brand of “magic sauce.”

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1 & 2… Click on the highlighted text for my author page…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, and Community Leader


CBS 60 Minutes…”Coming Home.” Finding a new mission and staying in touch are critical to healing…

Battlefield Cross…  Click highlighted text for more…

 “Coming Home” a CBS 60 Minutes special…click the highlighted text for program video clip… The interviews are a rare opportunity to learn how these soldiers heal from trauma in life after war…

“Scott Pelley revisits men who served in a Marine company that took especially high casualties in Afghanistan; a group he first met five years ago…”

Christian Cabaniss: “What I really hope is, you know, five years from now, they’re still coming together to see each other, to talk to each other. And they’re talking about their kids and the things that are going on in their lives. So they’ve been able to put that experience in perspective and use it as a foundation. Because I’ve said these kids are our next greatest generation, but not necessarily because of what they did on the battlefield. It’s gonna be because of what they did when they got home.”


The power of human connectedness in healing from traumatic experiences, including hard combat, comes through clearly in the interviews of combat veterans by Scott Pelley, CBS 60 Minutes.  Survivors from traumatic events in life will be touched by getting to know the veterans in this heartwarming program.  Each experience in life after trauma shows the value of connecting with others, including former battle buddies and trauma survivors, and in seeking a new purpose in life by making a difference for others.  Finding a new mission is absolutely critical in readjusting to civilian life when coming home.  What happens when you get home is what heals minds and bodies after leaving the battlefield.  Soldiers do not have to be alone when coming home and are able to create close and trusted relationships that are crucial to long term mental health.  The emotional pain never escapes completely from a trauma survivors mind, but is kept at a safe distance once becoming passionate about a new mission in life after war…and staying connected with your battle buddies…”puts you back in the right place.”

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7, 1941…My Father’s Memories…

USS West Virginia (BB48) Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941… It was when this photo was taken, my Dad, Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Coxswain, was swimming to Ford Island following the call by Capt. Bennion to “Abandon Ship!”



A post WWII family's struggle with moral injury and PTSD
Photos on cover of Vernon and Marcella Sparks c1940 and the USS West Virginia in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor…


The well recognized photo of the USS West Virginia (BB48) is very personal to me.  I know my father, Vernon, was swimming to Ford Island at the time the photo was taken of his ship sinking in Pearl Harbor.  The heartfelt feelings are healing and provide a special spiritual connection to my father.  When asked, Dad talked of his experience on that fateful day so long ago… I could tell it was hard for Dad to speak of the events because the memories were so vivid and painful for him.  He lost his best friend and shipmate Roy Powers on that day, and could never get past the memory of seeing his battle buddy falling back headless from looking out the porthole of the ship during the bombing.  Dad rarely spoke of the rest of WWII and the many months he spent in hard combat in the South Pacific.  He finally came home in June of 1945 just before WWII ended.  I tell my family’s post WWII story of forgiveness and healing in the books listed below.

My cousin, Dawn, in Minneapolis, Mn., sent me Dad’s written account of his experience aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) before he finally abandoned ship as ordered.  Dad wrote his account for the US Park Service on the 50th Anniversary (1991) of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.(click on this powerful ABC video clip)!  This was the first time he returned to Pearl Harbor following WWII to receive the Pearl Harbor Survivors Medal.  The unexplained part of this story, is that my father never shared the US Park Service document with his immediate family.  He mailed it to his sister, Dolly, for safe keeping.  My guess  is that it was too painful for him to share the tragic details with us by revisiting the experience over and over again…

In honor of all those who served, and the families who waited for weeks to learn of the fate of loved ones, following is my father Vernon’s transcribed first person account of those minutes following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941…

Vernon H. Sparks Handwritten Account

Following is a transcription from the National Park Service…

National Park Service

Survivor Questionnaire – Persons Present December 7, 1941, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii

Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Battleship USS West Virginia, Coxswain

Hometown: St. Paul, Mn

Brief Account of What Happened to You Before, During, & After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was on the 3rd deck heading for the anchor windless room when the first torpedo hit the USS West Virginia. From there, more bombing and torpedoes-when all hell broke loose.Men in the brig were screaming for help. I could not respond, there was no time…to check where the Marine guard was with the keys to the cells. Evidently, he had already been hit.The men in the brig were engulfed in water and perished.I worked my way up to the2nd deck with water up to my waist.By this time, I came to a hatch with the manhole still open leading to the main deck.I barely made it out of the escape hatch and was ordered by Lt. Stark to close that hatch.The men were still down there but it was too late for them.That was the first time I heard that the Japs were attacking our fleet…and the whole island. I watched one of my best shipmates get himself killed-Roy Powers.He stuck his head out the port side close to the ship-fitters shop; and about that time another torpedo hit and the concussion blew his head off.His body fell back on deck headless.  After that it was a matter of surviving.  There was no defense, the ship was already listing to port at about 35 degrees angle.I worked myself up further on the deck and observed the Commanding Officer, Mervyn S. Bennion heading for the bridge.The strafing and bombing was still on.When I arrived on the main deck going forward to the number one turret…strafing still going on…I dived under the overhang of the turret.Communications was out, so by word of mouth heard the order, “all hands abandon ship.”Note: Capt. Bennion was lying on the wing of the bridge mortally wounded…He asked the doc, “What kind of chance he had?”And was told, “Not much Captain.”Then, Captain Bennion said, “Leave me on the bridge and this is my last order, ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!”He died right after that order… After that order I jumped over the side to starboard and swam to Ford Island…Us guys that made it were standing on the beach watching the USS Arizona blow up sky high…what a helpless feeling.  I had torn my white uniform up to use as emergency treatment bandages for the wounded. Anyway, to make a long story short, we dashed across the field under strafing conditions to shelter. In the BOQ, we were able shower in there and salvage clothes from the lockers, and helped organize the Harbor Patrol. And was with that duty for a few months – then assigned to new construction with the 5th Amphibious Force hitting the beaches of the South Pacific, all the way, then finally Iwo Jima, & Okinawa until the Peace Treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Toyko, Japan.  People like myself could go on & on…but that would take a book…

Vernon H. Sparks, December 7, 1941, Battleship USS West Virginia

From Ship’s Crew Muster

Sparks, Vernon H.328-41-29Cox.13Jan.3610/12/39

“Remember Pearl Harbor!”

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click on highlighted text for my author page…

You can also purchase the Pearl Harbor 50th Anniversary Edition…by clicking the highlighted text or on my sidebar…






Why Beating & Scaring the Hell Out of Your Child Matters!

Minnesota Vikings v St. Louis Rams
“What Adrian Peterson did was wrong. That’s fact, not opinion. And yet, for so many, they don’t accept that. Why?”  Quote from…


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Husband. Father. Writer. Founder of Daddyfiles.com


“Why it doesn’t matter if that was how you were raised…”  A Huffington Post article by Aaron Gouvela…

“Allow me to bottom line this for you. If you think hitting your kid with a stick until he bleeds is an acceptable form of punishment, you’re a bad parent. And, more than likely, you’re engaging in a criminal act. Your culture, race, ethnicity, and upbringing don’t matter in this instance. I don’t care where you’re from or what color you are, because when you decide to whip your 4-year-old with the branch of a tree, you are committing a crime. And I hope you face the same charges Peterson is facing.”


I welcomed the news today that Adrian Peterson was suspended without pay from the Minnesota Vikings for the entire 2014 season!

I write about the intergenerational consequences of child abuse in my book.  I wrote this story of my family’s post WWII and Korean War struggles and the challenges of growing up in a toxic family culture because we were all morally injured from child abuse…a lifetime tragedy.  My father suffered terribly from the trauma of extended deployment as a US Navy wartime veteran.  His severe depression and anxiety can be described as showing the worst symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).  My father was also beaten and abused as a child, compounding his own mental health issues.  During my young life there was little or no awareness, nor protection for kids who were abused.  I refer to the worst memories during my childhood as “the too terrible to remember 1950’s and early 1960’s.

The worst of my experiences as a child is best described from the following excerpt from my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…

“As an added tragic note, my brother didn’t mention the time in Waukegan just before he entered the Navy, that Dad hit him in the head after Jerry was confronted in front of the house by some bullies. He almost took them all on and could have cleaned up since he was so strong. Dad hit his head so hard that it swelled up and we thought he needed medical attention. But Dad was afraid to take him to the hospital. Fortunately, Jerry recovered, but it is my opinion that this incident gave him a severe concussion that needed treatment. I know one thing for sure, as a little kid it hurt me deeply to see this happen. To this day I remember the terrible incident vividly. This horrid event is an example of a man who lived by day as a highly respected war hero training boots at the US Naval Training Center; and by night Dad was a mentally ill dangerous man who kept his family in a cage as victims of extreme abuse. None of us would talk about it for fear of being beaten. The US Navy did not see it, nor probably wanted to see it. This was a man who was solely responsible for our welfare and without him we would have been poor and homeless at the time. We had no choice but to live with him and to avoid his wrath as much as possible. None of us even understood the gravity of the situation until later. Denial certainly helped us survive but all the baggage is clear.”

Please get help if you find as a parent the need to “beat and scare the hell out of your child.”  By seeking treatment and support from the mental health professional community, you can stop the cycle of intergenerational child abuse, and break the cycle of emotional pain.  As an abused child from a time when there was complete denial and little awareness or treatment strategies, I still live with flashbacks at the prime age of 68.  My own journey of healing is a lifelong work in progress…  I also firmly believe that Minnesota Vikings star, Adrian Peterson, is a good person and will be a better father in the future… 

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…

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Steve Sparks, 1956, age 10…”a very scary time in my life…”

Father & Son Connect with “The Lone Sailor Memorial Statue” in Long Beach, California…

Steve Sparks at the “Lone Sailor Memorial Statue” in Long Beach, Ca.
US Navy “Lone Sailor Memorial Foundation.”  Click for a larger view…
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Marcella and Vernon Sparks c1940 Long Beach, Ca. Dad was a US Navy Coxswain at the time, serving aboard the Battleship USS West Virginia…destination Pearl Harbor prior to the beginning of WWII.  Click photo for larger view…

US Navy Memorial Foundation…  Quote from this website…

“The Lone Sailor statue represents all people who ever served, are serving now or who are yet to serve in the Navy. The Lone Sailor is a composite of the U.S. Navy bluejacket, past, present and future. He’s called the Lone Sailor.”


I never emotionally connected with my father’s US Navy career until researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, in 2011.  I didn’t know him well until long after he passed away in 1998.  I didn’t know my mother either…who is still with us at age 96 living in Reno, Nevada.  Growing up as a military child during the 1950’s and early 1960’s was hell.  Carrying around the emotional baggage of a toxic childhood was worse than hell for decades until learning more about the lives of my parents during the years leading up to WWII and afterwards.  I know them both now, far better than those years now lost in time and burdened with anger toward the pain of child abuse and emotional neglect.  I am no longer angry!

I stood by the “Lone Sailor” statue in Long Beach yesterday for a long time.  I was deeply moved…  I thought about my Dad and what he was like when joining the US Navy in 1936.  Dad spent his early years as a young sailor in Long Beach, California, no doubt standing in this very place looking out at sea dreaming about the future and what would come.  His first ship duty was aboard the Battleship USS Tennessee following boot camp in 1936.  I know he had hope and was excited about life.  Dad was outgoing, an extrovert, kind of like me.  He and mother were married in Long Beach in 1940 and experienced some of the happiest times of their lives until he departed on the USS West Virginia on a secret mission at that time during the summer of 1941.  My oldest brother, Jerry, was born in September 1941, three months before the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

I thought about my own US Navy service during the early 1960’s and felt close to Dad while reading the engraved memorial bricks at the “Lone Sailor Statue” site.  I also thought about Dad’s final words in his own written account (discovered after my book was published) while standing on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, after abandoning ship and swimming for safety after the USS West Virginia was bombed.  He and his shipmates watched the Battleship USS Arizona and the other ships from the US Navy Pacific Fleet engulfed in flames and smoke, and said, “People like myself could go on and on, but that would take a book!”  (click highlighted text for the full written account).  I am proud of my father, Vernon, and all the “Lone Sailor(s)” who served.  I am very grateful to have been inspired to write this book, which provided the personal strength to start my own journey of healing and forgiveness.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

Steve & Judy Sparks, October 18, 2014, Long Beach, California…

Steve Sparks, Depoe Bay Candidate for City Council, Position 5, had no previous knowledge or involvement with the write-in campaign flyer…





City of Depoe Bay, Oregon… Private write-in campaign flyer mailed to residents of Depoe Bay… Quotes and photos taken from the Lincoln County News – On-line…Click photos for larger view.

Quote from http://www.newslincolncounty.com/ on October 17, 2014…

‘Voter “flyer” developed and mailed by City Councilor Barbara Leff in which whose name appears as a write in for Mayor. The “flyer” also contains three “potential” write in names, including current City Councilors Barbara Leff and Dorinda Goddard, both of whom declined to file for re-election. Also the name of Fred Robison, whose family is a household name around town.

Quote from Barbara Leff…http://www.newslincolncounty.com/

 ‘When asked why there was no suggested write-in name under candidate Steve Sparks for city council, Leff offered only, “We think he’s a good guy.”


Discovering the subject write-in campaign flyer came as a complete surprise to me!  It was highly troublesome after looking at the flyer and reading the document to see that the appearance of my name on this document strongly suggests that I had direct knowledge and involvement, including a supportive role in this write-in campaign.  Let me make it perfectly clear… that during my campaign, I have presented a platform of “Community Building and Vitality” (click the highlighted text for my recent article published in this blog).  I have often expressed my desire to stay clear of the typical nasty and disturbing politics of Depoe Bay, Oregon.  My goal during the campaign is to become informed by getting engaged in the City of Depoe Bay with the hope of hitting the ground running when sworn in January 2015…a fresh and independent start as a new councilor is my heartfelt desire… Barbara Leff apologized to me on the phone this week for inadvertently including my name on the sample ballot.  I accept her apology, and respect her honesty.  I am also a strong believer in the democratic process and have no problem with a voter’s right to submit a write-in candidate. Please help me spread the word to help clear up any confusion or question voters may have about the write-in campaign.  I stand alone as a candidate for Depoe Bay City Councilor, Position 5.  I am not connected with the write in campaign proposed in the above flyer, and wish to remain neutral on all past Depoe Bay politics.  It is a new day in Depoe Bay!  If elected. I will be honored to have the opportunity to serve the citizens of Depoe Bay for the next four years.

Steve Sparks, Candidate for City Councilor, Position 5, City of Depoe Bay, Oregon

Steve Sparks


Vote Steve Sparks for Depoe Bay, Oregon City Council, Position 5… Read this important blog post!

Steve Sparks, Author, Leadership Coach, US Navy Veteran & Children’s Advocate


Community Building  Click for more on my recent article, “How to Treat “Silo Disorder,” a Detriment to Community Growth and Vitality…  Quote from article…by Steve Sparks

“I was asked again yesterday, what is meant by my reference to a rural community sickness coined by me as “Silo Disorder.”  For starters click on the highlighted text link that defines a “silo” mostly connected with a farming community where grain is stored in tall cylinder structures close to rail transportation.  My work over the past 25 years in rural community building projects reveals that the greatest challenge and obstacle to overcome at the beginning of any project for the “greater good” is to get our neighbors and community leaders to talk to each other, build relationships, discover teamwork, and find common ground…  We often refer to this process as leadership, but I don’t believe defining leadership initially helps…it is too subjective.  Leadership means different things to folks and the dots are rarely connected unless there is a reference to something tangible and attention getting like “silo disorder.”  If we all stay in our tiny sheltered world of self interests only, we never see the light of day or the bigger picture of what we should be talking about to build community vitality where new opportunities are discovered…where innovation happens…where we begin to find new social investment capital never before realized by creating public private partnerships (PPP)… click for graphic images…”

Depoe Bay, Oregon…”World’s Smallest Harbor”  Click on highlighted text for more…

Entrance to Depoe Bay Harbor…Click for larger view…
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Depoe Bay “Fleet of Flowers” Celebration… Click on highlighted text for more…


Following is my candidates statement found on page 21-11 of the Voters’ Pamphlet… Click highlighted text for Oregon General Election for November 4, 2014…

“I believe in the empowerment of community building and outreach strategies through collaborations and partnerships with local, state, and federal government, public private non-profits, private sector, and volunteers, all critical partners for community growth and vitality. Effective team building and collaborative commitments in Lincoln County have proven to be a successful enterprise, enhancing the quality of life for children and families, especially in education.

As a US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era and a post WWII military child, I am passionate about caring for veterans and families as a commitment to their sacrifice of service to protect our freedoms during all wars past and present. We have an eternal obligation and debt that can never be fully paid back to those who have served America in the military, as a first responder or in  public service.  We can never thank appreciate enough the service of the hundreds of volunteers in Lincoln County who work tirelessly and passionately to make a difference in our community.  The spirit of volunteerism is ever present right here in Depoe Bay.

As a City of Depoe Bay Councilor, I promise to be fair, objective, and compassionate about community service with the goal of achieving the very best quality of life and economic growth for all citizens for generations to come. It is my duty and heartfelt honor to serve!!!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click highlighted text for my author page…