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Turn the Ship Around!

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Turn the Ship Around!

A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How a US nuclear sub commander motivates employees, shares responsibility and builds excellence.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


The US Navy operates with a traditional “leader-follower” management structure. Corporations call this command and control. In the Navy, officers make decisions and enlisted personnel carry them out. This structure is a tremendous source of frustration and inefficiency while giving leaders the illusion they are “in charge.” These limitations were at a breaking point aboard the USS Santa Fe – once the worst performing nuclear submarine in the US fleet. In 1999, Commander L. David Marquet assumed command of the Santa Fe and developed an innovative management system known as “leader-leader.” This transformed the Santa Fe into a top-performing sub. Marquet explains how to implement leader-leader and how to use his “deliberate action” and “I intend to” management strategies. getAbstract recommends his hard-earned, applicable lessons to executives, HR managers, entrepreneurs, business students and professors, and anyone at sea.


How Bosses Kill Motivation

Most people are enthusiastic when they begin new jobs. They have innovative ideas and suggestions to share with their supervisors. But most inadvertently shut down their new employees pretty quickly, telling them to be “team players” and follow instructions. Such top-down direction destroys initiative and turns motivated, positive employees into depressed cynics who go through the motions. This frustrates both bosses and followers. Such disengagement costs US firms $300 billion annually. As a former commanding officer in the US Navy’s submarine fleet, Captain L. David Marquet has firsthand experience with disenchanted employees who perform at substandard levels.

The Navy’s attitude about leadership – like the approach of the typical boss – can also foster disenchantment. The Navy divides people into “leaders and followers,” the traditional leadership model. The leader-follower model promotes rote followership. It functions particularly badly for intellectual work. When people see themselves as followers, they stop thinking and do as their bosses say. Some leaders get around the leader-follower dilemma through “empowerment” of their employees...

About the Author

A 1981 US Naval Academy graduate, L. David Marquet served in the US submarine force for 28 years. He is the former captain of the USS Santa Fe and a highly requested global keynote speaker.

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