Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
L. David Marquet
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"Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers." David Marquet, an experienced Navy officer, was used to giving orders. As newly appointed captain of the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered submarine, he was responsible for more than a hundred sailors, deep in the sea. In this high-stress environment, where there is no margin for error, it was crucial his men did their job and did it well. But the ship was dogged by poor morale, poor performance, and the worst retention in the fleet.
Marquet acted like any other captain until, one day, he unknowingly gave an impossible order, and his crew tried to follow it anyway. When he asked why the order wasn't challenged, the answer was "Because you told me to." Marquet realized he was leading in a culture of followers, and they were all in danger unless they fundamentally changed the way they did things. That's when Marquet took matters into his own hands and pushed for leadership at every level.
Turn the Ship Around! is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy's traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control. Before long, each member of Marquet's crew became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. The crew became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and the Santa Fe started winning awards and promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command.
No matter your business or position, you can apply Marquet's radical guidelines to turn your own ship around. The payoff: a workplace where everyone around you is taking responsibility for their actions, where people are healthier and happier, where everyone is a leader.
thinking. On top of all that, only about 10 percent of the crew were actually practicing the “three-name” greeting. Because we were in the middle of an inspection, I’d said nothing. As much as I had vowed not to give orders and to let an empowered group of officers “intend” the way to victory, I found myself on too many occasions running to the control room, or torpedo room, or sonar room, to solve some crisis and set things right. The successes we’d had still relied too much on my personal
was inhibiting this. February 22, 1999: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (127 days to deployment) “Captain, I intend to get under way. All departments report readiness, the tug is made up, we have permission from port operations.” “Very well.” “Cast off all lines.” On the bridge, Lieutenant Dave Adams was coaching a junior officer who was conning the submarine for the first time. We’d completed the upkeep maintenance period and were preparing to travel to San Diego for several exercises
something about leadership. Turned out I didn’t. My tour on the Will Rogers was a disaster. We were in a dispiriting top-down leadership environment. No one wanted to be there. To change that, I intended to get the crew more involved and to decentralize decision making. I used all the tricks I had learned to “inspire and empower” my team, but none of those tricks seemed to improve either performance or morale. In fact, we ended up having a lot more problems. I just couldn’t figure out what
candidates were tightly grouped and the difference between those advanced and those not advanced was small. The exam, therefore, made all the difference. Our guys had averaged fifty-one points on the exam, whereas the average sailor who was advanced averaged sixty-four. Guys who were losing ten to twenty points on the exam couldn’t make it up with a couple of extra awards. You’d need ten Navy Achievement Medals to do that. Ironically, this was great news, because examination performance was
ballast tanks and go to “all stop” on the main engines. If the backing bell were left on too long, the ship would actually start going backward through the water, which was undesirable. The OOD was looking around nervously. This wasn’t a good sign. During casualties, I would watch the eyes of the watch officer. If they went down, bad. If they went to a written procedure, bad. If they looked unfocused, bad. If they were focused on the indications that would provide the necessary information