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VINE VOICEon September 9, 2012
I am skeptical about books on leadership. Most are written by persons who have reached positions of hierarchical authority in organizations and then anointed themselves "leaders." They don't talk about the political infighting and maneuvering that got them the job. Instead they wax eloquent about their skill in developing people - skills that frequently exist only in their imagination and the book they have written which book is often fiction parading as non-fiction. I was a contributing editor for one of the major business magazines and have met plenty of CEOs. I will leave it to you to guess how many times insiders have told me that the book their chief has written is wildly off the mark.

I have not met any of the persons that David Marquet commanded, but I will lay a substantial wager that many will follow him wherever they can.

Full disclosure: I am biased. I think that David is a leader, not a commander or a CEO or a senior officer but an authentic leader, for two reasons: 1) his views conform largely to my own, and 2) He undeniably moved a top of the line US nuclear submarine form bottom of the heap to the top by many objective measures.

David's views on leadership, and I repeat I heartily endorse these, are:

1) "Our greatest struggle is within ourselves. Whatever sense we have of thinking we know something is a barrier to continued learning."
2) The way to build a great team is to push decision making down, way down. The more each person feels he has the ability to do what he needs to in his immediate working environment, the more he will "own" his job and the more engaged he will be.
3) Engaged people will bubble with ideas about how to make the whole enterprise better. Some of these ideas will be relevant to a particular section and some for the entire organization. For the larger scope ideas, the originators will go out and get the cooperation/approval of others necessary to make the improvement happen.
4) It is not enough to push the decision making way down. You also have to send down responsibility, authority and the requisite resources. If you do not do this simultaneously, you simply increase the frustration level. Would you invite some one to come and smell dinner but not eat it? Case closed.
5) The mission is critically important. What is it, how is it defined and communicated, and is it a critical determinant of what decisions are made and how they are made? The answers to these questions will determine the success of the organization.

There is much more but these give you the picture. There are wonderful anecdotes throughout the book. For example, Marquet relates an incident where he was denied the opportunity to sail with a submarine whose command he was to assume within a month. He just wanted to get a quick read on what he would soon be facing. The departing captain refused to take him for many reasons mostly unexplained. One explained reason was that Marquet would have taken up scarce sleeping space. What is interesting is the lesson Marquet draws from this incident and how it shapes his own future actions. I will quote directly from the book to illustrate this:

"Even though this 2-day underway period would be greatly useful in sustaining Olympia's quality performance after he departed, he apparently had no interest in helping facilitate that. Could I fault him? In the navy system, captains are graded on how well their ships perform up to the day they depart, not a day longer. After that it becomes someone else's problem.

I thought about that. On every submarine and ship, and in every squadron and battalion, hundreds of captains were making thousands of decisions to optimize the performance of their commands for their tour and their tour alone. If they did anything for the long run it was because of an enlightened sense of duty, not because there was anything in the system that rewarded them for it. We didn't associate an officer's leadership effectiveness with how well his unit performed after he left. We didn't associate an officer's leadership effectiveness with how often his people got promoted 2, 3 and 4 years hence. We didn't even track that kind of information. All that mattered was performance in the moment."

To truly understand how valuable this type of thinking and approach is, ponder this question: If the "leaders" of our financial institutions knew that their bonuses were dependent on how the executive decisions they made would play out over the next five years, and those bonuses were subject to being recovered within that period, do you think we would still have had the blow-ups that wrecked so many venerable institutions and nearly destroyed our financial sector?

There is one other reason I find this book invaluable. We all know that a good question is worth more than an hour of detailed instruction. Socrates certainly thought so. Each chapter has several profoundly thought provoking questions at the end. If you grapple with these questions, you may well find that your view of the world is being turned around. Here is a random example: "Are your people trying to achieve excellence or just avoid making mistakes?" Think about the implications of this for your organization.

Get this book and read it with your highlighter in hand. Probably a good idea to get two highlighters.
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on May 1, 2016
I found this book fascinating in its challenge of the well established leadership model assumption. The eloquent dismantling of the leader-follower model is wonderful. The leader-leader model that replaces it is even better! I served in the submarine fleet more than 12 years after Mr. Marquet commanded his boat, but the effects of his success are still readily apparent. My fellow nukes don't need to be told why that is so impressive but let me elaborate for others. Our culture in the Nuclear Navy is so unique and forcefully strong it's hard for an outsider to understand. In short, the devotion to excellence is so severe we have operated hundreds of reactors over millions of nautical miles, for over 60 years without a single process safety accident. This culture of excellence is so ingrained and so strong that for anything to change it those changes would have to be unquestionably profound. Mr. Marquet provided exactly that. He put those things in his book and translates them well to business, but I assure you, the proof of their value is in the fact that the Nuclear Navy has incorporated his concepts, and become better for it.
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on May 18, 2017
Overall, this is a fantastic book on leadership. It is well written and the concepts are easy to understand. Most leadership books focus on fundamental principles. They tend to be leadership training manuals. The best part about this book is that it is a story. The author, Capt. Marquet describes how he changed a low performing submarine crew into a high performing one. He still highlights certain leadership principles but does so in an entertaining fashion.

In some cases, his leadership concepts are well known. In general, he separates his philosophy into three parts: Control, Competence, and Clarity. Certain problems are common to all mangers and the associated solutions are already well known. That said, the author manages to present a new way of thinking on some of these common solutions. For example, instead of empowering employees, he argues for their emancipation. An employee is emancipated when the cultures changes to such a degree as the manager no longer has the ability to empower anyone. In other words, true change occurs when the entire culture of the organization evolves.

Bottom line: This is an outstanding book for any manager. The narrative moves quickly and every reader is likely to find at least one new idea to add to their leadership toolbox.
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on August 8, 2017
I'm an educator who loves to read books on communication and leadership. This was the first book that I read 3 times, highlighting as I went (3rd time). Most leadership books simply scratch the surface when it comes to empowerment of their teams, but Marquet not only gives you step by step practical ways he implemented it. I gave this book to my brother (who happened to just retire from the Military and took a civilian job) who was struggling with getting his employees to take ownership and take action in their roles. This book helped him turn his team around by applying the 4 principles:

1. Starting Over - the assumption behind the leadership structure, so fundamental that it becomes subconscious
2. Control - Don't move information to authority, move authority to the information
3. Competence - Deliberate action, learn all the time, don't brief - certify, specify goals and not methods
4. Clarity - People at all levels of an organization understand what the organization is about

Marquet's methods are backed by his results by taking the worst Navel Sub in US history to the best in less than one year. A must have for understanding true Empowerment within teams.
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on August 22, 2017
I'll just say two words. GAME CHANGER.
I've seen this work at a large employer after we brought the author in to speak to the leadership team for a day.
This method isn't going to be without effort, and there will be scoffers. There always are. BUT once you "get it", it actually becomes easy and cheap. Not only cheap, it will save you time and money very quickly. You will get attention because of the changes in your team, and you will become a highly desired employer once you adopt the leader-leader paradigm.
Game Changer.
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on February 9, 2016
Captain Marquet understood what it meant to push for leadership at a lower level than him. He empowered his crew to make decisions, and become the responsible men that the Navy would expect them to be. Marquet changed a culture that seemed to thrive on top-down leadership rather than bottom-up, he implemented an accountability, recognition and autonomy system. Captain Marquet found after taking command of the ship, that teamwork, and the ability to communicate effectively was an issue. He created a positive environment that made his crew want to trust him. He was the change the crew needed to gain their confidence, and build morale. I teach at the local High School Juniors and Seniors in the Law Enforcement Program, and this book reminds me that consistency is key with building a class of strong leaders. Captain Marquet helps us to understand that leadership can be found in each and everyone of us, no matter the title or the job. If we invest in our crew, or in my case my students long term, my reward is that they trust me enough to let me help them persevere and reach their goals.
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on May 20, 2016
The nuclear submarine Navy is such a different breed compared to other branches of the service. Born in an era of cold war threats of complete annihilation and drvien by one ma's vision (Admiral Hyman Rickover) of what was necessary to overcome the evil empire, the nuclear submarine force is the penultimate reflection of the old sea adage: "Zero defects: Don't make the same mistake once!". Captain Marquet's accomplishment wiht his ship and its crew are astonishing in a part of the Navy locked in the paradigm of perfection is routine and the Captain is second but to god.

I also submit thta while Captain Marquet's management and development of his ship and crew constitute ral leadership, there are times when the ship is sinking or the deathly silent Chinese electric boat has outmanuevered you that an officer or sailor saying "I intend to...." might cause a small detonaiton in a stressed manuevering room. Also, the touchy-feely sense that sems to be the way today's management techniques have evolved might not be sucesssful in a faster moving environment such as aviation.

In other words kudos to Captain Marquet and the same to his commodore and crew but be wary: leadership is not "one size/style fits all" and situations sometimes demand a more instantaneous response than a committee of the whole may be capable of providing. Convening a council or listening to your troops is a basic tenent of leadership...when the situation permits. But sometimes leadership, in the purest sense and meaning of the term, is individual. Eisenhower at D-Day is the classic example; another perhaps more germane ot this book is Captain Gilmore of the USS Growler. Ordering his ship to submerge while he lay mortally wounded on the connnign tower may havebeen the most courageous reflection of leadership the silent service has ever seen...and he did it alone. Most peole know Captain Bligh, he of HMS Bounty, was a terribe captain, causing his crew to mutiny, yet after he was cast adrift in a whaleboat with the small crew that remianed loyal to him and their king, he led them several thousand miles across the south Pacific to safety. Personalities and individual traits cannot be discounted in the development and application of management and leadership.
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on May 9, 2016
I first found Marquet on YouTube. I was intrigued by his story of GIVING control to sailor on a NUCLEAR submarine. My clients have heard me talking about this for a number of years. Many pushed backed because of fear that giving up control would lead to chaos, low performance and critical mistakes that would mean certain doom.

Now, I have the example of a submarine full of "leaders" where 135 lives are at stake every moment and it worked! Marquet makes it really easy to follow his leadership theory with relevant anecdotes, an incredibly simple model (Control, Competence, Clarity) and a dose of humility. It was because HE was making mistakes that he realized things had to change.

In short, Marquet found a way to turn one of the worst-performing submarines into the best. This is a page turner AND and indispensable guide to how we all need to lead when hearts and minds are in play.
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on August 14, 2017
In this raw, partly autobiographical self-help book, Turn the Ship Around! challenges the stereotypical hierarchy of command of the U.S. military. Former Nuclear Submarine Commander L. David Marquet defies tradition and protocol of hierarchical command embedded in the training of naval officers. This is not done to challenge the system, but more importantly to save the livelihood of USS Santa Fe and the fate of its sailors.

Assigned to a submarine with some of the lowest performance scores in the Navy, poor advancement and retention rates of its officers and sailors, and a bleak morale you could almost feel through his words, Marquet questions everything and gives a voice to all on board to provide an answer. How can such a submarine exist in a long-standing institution of discipline and structure of rank and command? Could it be the actual organizational structure of the institution?

To answer the first question, Marquet proposes a leader-leader model in which he argues for distributed leadership, mentorship, and empowerment. The model is drawn out through a story that is explicit in the mistakes and triumphs of the crew, as well as the personal effects the experience had on Marquet and his sailors.

To explore the second question, Marquet explores the four frames of leadership as defined by Bolman and Deal: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. He observes the (in)efficiency of the existing structure and hierarchical protocol and questions the costs of those protocols over the longitudinal success of USS Santa Fe. The existing protocols even had direct effects on the personal lives of the sailors, and by building relationships with the crew morale and a greater sense of responsibility was facilitated. The development of a morphed responsibility within the established hierarchical ranking was even accepted by those up the chain of command because of observed and documented improvement of the USS Santa Fe. The successful (metaphorical and literal) turning around of the ship beat the odds of the stigma of challenging the institutionalized rank and command of the US Navy.

I admit my ignorance to military and Navy jargon was frustrating at times, but a quick flip to the glossary had me up to speed with the organizational lesson as exampled by this particular environment. This was a good example not only to break the stereotypical mold of military leadership as an orderly, disciplined organizational model, but it breaks the stigma of challenging an established institutional structure. It gives a sense of motivation and inspiration to better understand the organizational behemoth we operate within. The true beauty of this book, though, is its applicability to any number of environments and organizational cultures. Each chapter summarizes its main theme and presents a list of questions for consideration, including activities one may conduct with a team. While its intended audience is those in a leadership position, the book is an important read for more entry-level and mid-management positions to better understand the concept of leader-leader and how to engage in that workplace dialogue.
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on October 3, 2012
I was aboard the USS Santa Fe for 2 years prior to Captain Marquet and 2 years WITH Captain Marquet. We were truly the worst boat in in Pearl Harbor. We were a disengaged crew and the most common phrase on the boat was FTN (use your imagination). Many crew members had that written in their hats. Everyone was getting out. When Captain Marquet came aboard this all changed. Pride crept back in. Guys started reenlisting. We were now proud to be Navy and proud of our boat!

David truly walks the walk. He immediately changed our culture. I personally benefitted from his empowerment approach. I was a naive farm boy with very little self confidence when he arrived. Under his leadership I qualified and stood watches normally reserved for officers. I was named 'Junior Leader of the Year' for the Sub Pac fleet. Getting out of the Navy had once been a no-brainer, but under Captain Marquet, it was the hardest decision I have ever made.

I am now a self confident and succesful leader and family man. I am also a leader who gives control and I have one of the happiest and most productive groups at our company. Since taking over our MFG floor, we have reduce LH by 35% and reduced quality hits by 90% all while reducing OT to near zero. It took a long time to get to this and it was very difficult at times, but David's philosophy works!
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