• Lars Christensen

Turn the ship around by L.David Marquet - 2 minute read



One of the best books I've read in 2020. I finished it in December, and I recommend this book 10/10.

If you are looking for a book that will let you get tactical about your leadership, this book will make you rethink your leadership approach. David Marquet mentioned that he took a lot of inspiration from seven habits of effective people by Stephen Covey and Simon Sinek's Start with Why.


Are you looking to learn how a Navy Captain turns the worst performing submarine in the US Navy and turned it around by going from a Leader-Follower to a Leader-Leader Mentality?

Here is the Amazon link.


My notes and thoughts:

  • A great leader doesn't tell people what to do; instead, he trains the crew to make the decisions. The leader's job is to oversee the whole ship operation at once

  • A great leader will not be missed; you would not know if a great leader left because the crew would be able to keep the ship fully operating.

  • What can we do to incentivize long-term thinking?

  • Do you give employees specific goals and the freedom to meet them in any way they choose?

  • Questions to the crew when taking over a new team:

  • What are the things you are hoping I don't change?

  • What the things you secretly hope I do change?

  • What are the good things about the team we should build on?

  • Why isn't the ship doing better?

  • What are your personal goals for your tour here on the ship?

  • What impediments do you have to do your job?

  • What will our biggest challenge be to getting the ship ready for deployment?

  • What is your biggest frustration about how the ship currently run?

  • What is the best thing I can do for you?

  • You don't have to be the smartest person in your organization.

  • Do people want to change, or are they comfortable with the current level of performance?

  • Are things too comfortable?

  • Do people take action to protect themselves or to make the outcome better? Does leadership in your organization take control or give control?

  • My focus should be to divest control and distribute it to the team. Control is about making decisions concerning how we are going to work and toward what end. "Don't move information to authority; move authority to the information."

  • Resist the urge to provide resolutions. Allow everyone to think out loud. State that we operate on a project as an experiment and welcome the final inspections of our learnings.

  • Write down what you worry about when thinking about delegating control; what do you really worry about?

  • What are you willing to delegate as a leader-leader to show you are walking the walk?

  • Do we act first and think later? Or do we think first and then change our actions?

  • Short, early conversations are the mechanism for control.

  • Here is a list of empowering phrases that active doers use:

  • I intend to...

  • I plan on...

  • I will...

  • We will...

  • Resist the urge to provide solutions is the mechanism for control.

  • Here are a few ways to try to get your team to think for themselves:

  • If the decision needs to be made urgently, make it, then have the team "red-team" the decision and evaluate it.

  • If the decision needs to be made reasonably soon, ask for team input, even briefly, then make the decision.

  • If the decision can be delayed, then force the team to provide inputs. Do not force the team to come to a consensus; that results in whitewashing differences and dissenting votes. Cherish the dissension. If everyone thinks like you, you don't need them.

  • Don't preach and hope for ownership; implement mechanisms that actually give ownership. Eliminate top-down monitoring systems, not data collection and measuring processes; those are important to make the invisible visible.

  • When I, as captain, would "think out loud," I was, in essence imparting important context and experience to my subordinates. I was also modeling that lack of certainty is strength and certainty is arrogance.

  • With the idea of learning in mind, I found myself in a state of calmness, even eagerness, as I thought about all that my crew and I would learn.

  • Continually and consistently repeat the message is a mechanism for competence.

  • Specifying goals, not methods, is a mechanism for competence and clarity.

  • Building trust and taking care of your people is a mechanism for clarity.

  • Use immediate recognition to reinforce desired behaviors is a mechanism for clarity.

  • Begin with the end in mind, Stephen Covey style

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