Successfully navigating the treacherous waters created by the pandemic or other unforeseen challenges requires exemplary leadership. Discover a novel way to tap into overlooked leadership resources hiding in plain sight.
By John Boggs
2020 has been an extraordinary year. For some, it’s been a year of devastating challenges triggered by the pandemic. For others, it’s been a year of unprecedented opportunity and blessing. No matter which side of the equation you find yourself on, 2020 has no doubt called you to a higher level of leadership.
As a leader, I love to stay in the study. “Sharpening the saw” is a vital daily habit that helps feed your mind, inspire you with ideas, and ensures that you’re the very best leader you can be.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been sharing my top 10 favorite, most impactful books. Today, let’s continue the discussion by looking at Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Building Leaders by Breaking the Rules by L. David Marquet.
An Unconventional Way to View Leadership
Turn the Ship Around is one of the most powerful leadership books I’ve ever studied — for three important reasons. Before we dive in, let me share some background.
Marquet is a Navy captain who was commissioned to take over command of a nuclear submarine. He prepared diligently for his new assignment, studying everything he could get his hands on to understand how his sub operated.
At the last minute, though, the Navy changed his commission. His new assignment put him at the helm of the very worst submarine in the entire U.S. Navy. The sub ran on an old technology that was nothing like what Marquet had been studying. So when he assumed command, he didn’t know the practical details of how to run the submarine.
Almost immediately, trouble arose. Marquet unknowingly gave an order that was impossible to carry out on this particular submarine. His crew knew it. Yet they tried to follow the order anyway. Why? Because they had been immersed in the Navy’s leader-follower leadership style that dictated following orders – always.
Recognizing that blind obedience to impossible-to-execute orders could be deadly, Marquet chose to institute a cutting-edge leadership style he called “leader-leader.” That’s the first of the three big takeaways I’d like to share with you.
Leadership Takeaway 1: Use the “Leader-Leader” Leadership Style
The traditional leadership style in most organizations is a hierarchical, Leader-Follower system. You are the leader, and the people who work in your organization are supposed to follow your lead.
Although Marquet doesn’t completely dismiss the Leader-Follower approach to leadership, he does say that it’s important for followers to take ownership of their results. Followers must be willing to lead their own efforts vs. waiting to react to what their leaders order them to do. Followers in any organization should be proactive in coming up with their own solutions, in leading their own results, and in truly owning what they have going on. Followers become leaders in their own way, which is why this style is called Leader-Leader.
Leadership Takeaway 2: Leaders Create More Leaders. Followers Create More Followers.
If people in your organization are used to waiting around until you tell them what to do, they will cultivate more of that attitude. The culture of your organization will become one where people are not expected to own their results.
The opposite is true, as well. If you instill a Leader-Leader mindset in your organization, you will create a culture of responsibility that permeates every aspect of your business. Every subculture within your larger organization begins to understand, “We need to own what’s going on.”
Leaders create more leaders. Followers create more followers. Be deliberate in what you choose to create.
Leadership Takeaway 3: A Great Leader Must Be Willing to Take Some Risk.
To cultivate a Leader-Leader mindset and culture, you must be willing to relinquish some control. For your current Followers to step up as true Leaders, they must take ownership of their results. That transition will happen only once they know that they — not you — are in charge of the results.
If you believe that there is a risk to giving up control, you’re right. There is! But there’s also a blessing and opportunity. As you take risks, some won’t work – but many things will.
The key is to take calculated risks. Don’t be reckless in taking risks about where you delegate control. Instead, look for the right places in which to instill Leader-Leader management. Start with areas where a failure won’t be devastating. Understand that as you take risks and build an organization fueled by this new style of leadership, your risks will pay off.
2020 is coming to a close. But it doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to face challenges in 2021 or beyond. Challenges and unforeseen circumstances are a part of life – and a part of business.
Position your organization to thrive by empowering all people to think – and act – like leaders, and you will see unparalleled results in your business and life.
To your leader“ship”!