Home Management and Leadership Turn the Ship Around!

Turn the Ship Around!
Read in 18 min.
Listen in 23 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by L. David Marquet

Turn the Ship Around!

Managing an organisation through widespread leadership

A purely authoritarian approach to leadership is inefficient and outdated because it fails to bring out the best in a team’s members. In Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, captain of the nuclear submarine Santa Fe, L. David Marquet, shows us a whole new way to manage a team effectively. What you need to do is to move towards a model in which each leader’s prime responsibility is that of creating other leaders, and inspiring them to do the same with each individual member of the organisation in turn. This will not create conflicts, but rather will help to create cohesion within the team, uniting it through a common purpose, thus leading to incredible improvements in productivity and performance.

Turn the Ship Around!
Read in 18 min.
Listen in 23 min.

Managing an organisation, a company department, or any type of team, with an authoritarian approach, will ultimately fail

When L. David Marquet became captain of the USS Santa Fe in 1999, it was one of the submarines with the worst personnel performance in the entire naval fleet. After a year, things had radically changed, and Marquet had transformed the submarine into one of the most efficient in the United States. How did he do it? How do you turn a failing organisation into one where everything goes right? How can managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders make themselves heard, and ensure that their team performs outstandingly?

Before diving deeper into this topic and properly addressing the questions posed above, we need to go back one step further: you can’t possibly hope to find a solution, if the problem has not been correctly identified first.

According to the author, everything passes through the style of whoever is in charge. The problem is that many leaders continue to play their role based on the so-called Leader-Follower model, whether they are aware of it or not. This is the model commonly used within the Navy, as well as in almost all companies. According to this approach, there are basically two types of people within an organisation: leaders who make decisions, and people who (presumably) implement them.

Having a role or a title, however, is not in itself enough to make sure you are being heard, or to make people do what they have been told. For example, think of a supermarket, where the section manager orders an employee hired on a permanent basis to restock the shelves with pasta more quickly. The employee, who is protected by a solid contract, is not at risk of receiving a warning or being fired for being too slow (apart from in extreme cases), so it will be up to them to choose whether or not to abide by the request.

Some might argue that the employee will carry out the orders because otherwise the manager could retaliate in some way, but is this really the kind of environment we want to create in a company? Is this the path we want to take? How efficient do you think your employees will be in this kind of work environment? Do we really believe that this system can increase the productivity of the company or sector we are responsible for? Similar questions can also be asked in relation to our private lives. Does the use of "fear" as a motivator, and authoritarianism, really help you get your children to listen to you?

The supermarket example just discussed provides the perfect scenario to help us understand the difference between a simple boss and a true leader: a boss will rely only on their title to make their organisation work, while a leader is a figure that people respect, hold in high esteem, and want to follow. They are a person who is able to instil certain values in others, and create an environment and vision that helps to lead their organisation towards harmony, efficiency, and productivity.

How can we achieve this? The answer, according to Marquet, lies in managing your team with a leader-leader approach.


The key ideas of "Turn the Ship Around!"

Managing an organisation, a company department, or any type of team, with an authoritarian approach, will ultimately fail
The leader-follower approach functioned when most of the work was physical. Today, however, more and more tasks require cognitive and technical skills, assessments, and decision making
The leader-leader approach is best when managing an organisation, because it actively involves all team members
Distributing decision-making power, leaving room for reasoning, using the power of language, and overturning supervision mechanisms are some of the most effective methods to decentralise control (and thus improve performance)
To grant more responsibility to managers or staff in a productive way, you need to make sure they know how to manage it
Promoting the organisation’s values ​​and mission is fundamental to creating a group culture that leads to increased productivity and improved performance
It is important to acknowledge and highlight people’s good work
Take-home message
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