Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, by L. David Marquet

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely read this kind of “professional career guide” type of book. They’re all too often fairly dry, are strongly dependant on the cultural and social environment they’re based upon (e. g. US/Europe) and, honestly, range from “difficult to apply” to “impossible to adapt”.

Luckily, this book is completely different! David Marquet tells us in plain words how he metaphorically “turned the ship around” from one of the worst to one of the top performers. I would never have believed that the military of all organisations was actually able to apply a culture of “thinking out loud”, (constructively) questioning orders and, generally, turn a culture of classic “command & control” into something much more open and productive.

Marquet doesn’t ever preach, though, but expertly demonstrates each of his already simple-to-grasp (but not necessarily easy-to-implement!) points by telling us about how he actually implemented them on a nuclear-powered attack submarine.

Not only does he display good general insights…

»You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position, power, or fear, but a human being’s genius, passion, loyalty, and tenacious creativity are volunteered only. The world’s greatest problems will be solved by passionate, unleashed “volunteers.”«

… but turns those into useful ideas which he is able to communicate clearly:

»My definition of leadership is this: Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.«

He also does away with some well-meaning but annoying misconceptions by some leadership approaches like “empowerment programs”:

»Additionally, it seemed inherently contradictory to have an empowerment program whereby I would empower my subordinates and my boss would empower me. I felt my power came from within, and attempts to empower me felt like manipulation.«

There are a whole lot of inherently simple ideas that Marquet drives home clearly and in a very well-structured manner while not forgetting about us, his readers, who usually appreciate a well-presented big picture. He writes clearly without frills and yet engagingly. I actually found his writing strangely attractive and pulled in.

To actually put some of the ideas presented to the test, I “sneakily” applied some of the easier ones at work and was pleasantly surprised how well that turned out.

When all is said and done, this is a really well-done book on leadership which I highly recommend for any kind of leader!

Five out of five stars.

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