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by Kevin Coupe

Fast Company has a fascinating excerpt from a book by L. David Marquet, Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired), entitled "Turn The Ship Around!: How To Create Leadership At Every Level."

Essentially, the story recounts the moment when Marquet realized that the top-down management style typical of a nuclear submarine was flawed - he had been transferred to be captain of a submarine with which he was unfamiliar, gave an order to the Officer of the Deck (OOD), who immediately passed the order on to the helmsman. However, the helmsman was unable to carry out the order, because this particular sub was incapable of performing this maneuver.

When he asked the OOD why he had given the order to the helmsman, the response was simple and straightforward: "Because you told me to."

Marquet writes: "He was being perfectly honest. By giving that order, I took the crew right back to the top-down command and control leadership model. That my most senior, experienced OOD would repeat it was a giant wake-up call about the perils of that model for something as complicated as a submarine. What happens when the leader is wrong in a top-down culture? Everyone goes over the cliff. "

The problem, he writes, is that "we reward personality-centered leadership structures and accept the limitations." But that does not make it good leadership.

Marquet says that from this point on, it was his goal to create an organizational structure on the ships he commanded that would allow him to give as much control as possible to subordinates, on the theory that it would encourage them to learn how to make intelligent judgements and responsible, informed decisions. And the book suggests that if such a thing is possible on a nuclear submarine, it certainly is possible in a lot of businesses - and might be one way for troubled businesses with top-down structures to find a way to survive.

The Fast Company piece can be found here. It is, to say the least, an Eye-Opener.
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