This past week I was reminded of my first encounter with David Marquet's stunning leadership book, Turning the Ship Around, by a social media post celebrating its 10th year in publication.
I was shocked when I first read the book in 2012. As a former nuclear submarine sailor myself, I was intimately familiar with an impenetrable command and control culture that permeates the entire US Navy. The idea that a submarine captain would dare challenge that culture was unthinkable to me.
But that's exactly what David Marquet did — and with stunning results. After hearing about Captain Marquet's story, Stephen Covey visited the USS Santa Fe to see for himself.
"Dr. Covey told me it was the most empowered organization he’d seen anywhere, not just in the military. Unfettered by the mental image of leader-follower, the crew approached the business of making every evolution, every operation excellent. At the time, we knew we were developing something new, but we didn’t know what it was. Through trial and error, the crew arrived at a body of practices and principles that were dramatically more effective than those within the leader-follower model. It was only toward the end that we understood we had replaced the leader-follower model with the leader-leader model."
I've always been intrigued by the audacity of David Marquet to undertake the changes he made to completely change the culture of the submarine in stark contrast to the command and control culture of the entire US Navy.
When I revisited my highlights from my initial reading of Turn the Ship Around in 2012, I found a clue:
Right or wrong, I was committed to doing whatever I thought was the best for Santa Fe, the navy, and the nation without worrying about the repercussions. I called this the paradox of “caring but not caring”—that is, caring intimately about your subordinates and the organization but caring little about the organizational consequences to yourself.
Clearly, this caring attitude is something we'd all like to see more of and is clearly needed almost everywhere today.
If you haven't read David's book, I'd encourage you to pick up a copy today. Read the interview I did with David in 2012 for 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success shortly after the book was published here.