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Customer Review

on June 23, 2003
This book and its author have received a lot of media exposure, so I decided to check it out. While Abrashoff espouses proven leadership techniques, the only really new learning is how one man applied the principles on a Navy ship with a complement of 311 sailors. This is more a story of one man's awakening to how leadership is considerably more effective than management; how getting out of people's way is wiser than micromanaging them.
Leadership is emphasized in the book, and in every endorsement quote on the back cover. Yet, the subtitle says "management techniques," not "leadership techniques." Leadership did not come easy to Abrashoff; he had a lot of learning to do...and undo. As he moves through the chapters, this retired Navy Captain talks about his experiences in leading by example, listening, communicating purpose and meaning, creating a climate of trust, focusing on results, taking calculated risks, building people and unity, and strengthening quality of life.
Good leaders can tell you all about these concepts and how they are applied in their organization. Aspiring leaders and those who have not yet seen the light will be awe-struck by what Abrashoff accomplished. Solid, experienced leaders will see this book as more of a case study and a reinforcement of what they're already doing. As I have observed today's military leaders-as a citizen and as a consultant who has had the privilege of working with military leaders, the "system" is not as counterproductive as the author would lead us to believe. Bureaucracy is still bureaucracy, but Abrashoff is not alone in his practice of leadership skills.
Abrashoff applied leadership skills on his ship to achieve significant measurable results. I'm glad he documented his achievements so others might be inspired. I noted that he compared and linked his military experiences and perspectives to civilian applications. Through relationships with Fast Company magazine and other organizations, this author is now giving speeches and probably consulting. This book and the attendant publicity could be viewed as effective tools to position him as a sought-after speaker.
In all fairness, while the leadership principles and anecdotes from the USS Benfold are certainly present, this book struck me as more of an autobiography of the growth of a leader. For a treatise about leadership and considering the title, I was surprised to see such heavy use of first person pronouns in the writing.
Company owners and senior executives will find the book valuable as a case study of one man's experience. Managers will learn principles and techniques that can substantially improve their performance. Some readers will feel reinforced; others will feel discomforted by the heavy sense of ego and rationalization. It's a shame that Abrashoff did not choose to stay in the Navy to effect those changes he says are so needed; instead he left the service to write a book focused on two years of his work and hit the lecture circuit.
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