In Turn the Ship Around!, L. David Marquet, a retired Navy nuclear submarine captain, proposes using a leader-leader model rather than a leader-follower model in the workplace. If you know anything about the military, the power of his contrarian point of view is revolutionary.
Based on firsthand experience, having survived U.S. Army basic training at Fort Ord a few decades ago, it seemed to me that the Army’s goal was to get us to do whatever they told us to do, no matter how stupid or unreasonable it may have been. Some of the absurd things drill instructors said to us were laughable — although, for self-preservation, no one would dare laugh out loud. I recall coming home on leave for the first time and Barbara asking me, What’s the matter? The opinionated fellow she had married suddenly wasn’t able to make any decisions for himself. That’s when I realized that, in order to survive, I had put myself in a mental state where I just did whatever my superiors told me to do, no matter what I personally thought. As a result, I had become — and remained throughout my military career — a really GOOD follower.
In his book, this former captain is proposing something very foreign to the military. Marquet says leadership in the armed forces has historically been all about controlling people, but he goes on to admit that there’s a vast untapped human potential being lost under the leader-follower model.
I know you’re trying to figure out the business application. Well, if you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve commented many times on the importance of listening to your team members, even when you don’t like their input, and creating an atmosphere where team members at all levels are encouraged to share their ideas. Marquet offers an interesting point of view that I believe applies to businesses as well as the military.
In addition to the above, Marquet provides some insight into the how the leader-follower model is only effective in the short run. He gives examples of submarines with effective leader-follower captains who failed under a new captain. In the past, I’ve addressed the importance of business succession; Marquet believes the leader-leader model is best for succession.
If you’re like many of us who prefer to control, I would suggest reading Turn the Ship Around! I’m certain you’ll be encouraged by Captain Marquet’s revolutionary ideas.