David Marquet was an accomplished captain in the Navy, but is more well known in most circles by his incredible book, Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders. The book focuses on management skills and is essentially a how-to for managers on delegating, training, and improved execution. It is specific in focus and broad in reach and we highly recommend reading through it whether you are a seasoned manager or just getting your first direct report next week.
Marquet was a Naval Academy graduate and an experienced officer when selected for submarine command. Trained to give orders in the traditional model of “know all–tell all” leadership, he faced a new wrinkle when he was shifted to the Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered submarine. Facing the high-stress environment of a sub where there’s little margin for error, he was determined to reverse the trends he found on the Santa Fe: poor morale, poor performance, and the worst retention rate in the fleet.
Almost immediately, Marquet ran into trouble when he unknowingly gave an impossible order, and his crew tried to follow it anyway. When he asked why, the answer was: “Because you told me to.” Marquet realized that while he had been trained for a different submarine, his crew had been trained to do what they were told—a deadly combination.
That’s when Marquet flipped the leadership model on its head and pushed for leadership at every level. Turn the Ship Around! reveals 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 to his subordinates, and creating leaders.
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 completely engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day. The Santa Fe set records for performance, morale, and retention. And over the next decade, a highly disproportionate number of the officers of the Santa Fe were selected to become submarine commanders.
Whether you need a major change of course or just a tweak of the rudder, you can apply Marquet’s methods to turn your own ship around. We're always interested to hear how our clients have turned their ships around, you can find out more about us and how we did it here: Management Development.