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Book summary: Turn the ship around // turning followers into leaders

Captain Marquet guides the reader through the flaws in the common Leader-Follower approach practised in most teams and presents the case for the Leader-Leader methodology. In his opinion, the key to achieving this is by divesting control from one and spreading it across the organisation. However, transferring control can lead to disaster if the following two factors are not considered; competence and clarity.

In this summary, I will first highlight the mechanisms with which control can be passed on to other people and then address the mechanisms to ensure competence and clarity.

Mechanisms for Control

  • Find the genetic code for control and rewrite it. The first step in changing the genetic code is delegating control or decision making authority as much as is comfortable, and then slowly increasing that over time.
  • Act your new way of thinking. Very similar to the concept of ‘fake it till you make it’. By acting a certain way even though it may not be how you think, will force you to start altering your behaviour.
  • Short, early conversations make efficient work. As the author describes it ‘a little rudder far away from the rocks is much better than a lot of rudder close to the rocks’. In essence, this means that discussions should be had as soon as possible as little action at that moment can ensure smooth sailing, do not wait for issues to become manifest before taking action or having conversations.
  • Use ‘I intend to…’ to turn passive followers into active leaders. This mechanism ensures that members within the organisation take ownership and actively form part of the decision-making body. Follow that up with any comments that would be relevant to the task so the person-in-charge can be at ease that the full scale of the situation has been considered.
  • Resist the urge to provide solutions. It will sometimes take longer for the developing leaders to get round a problem, but this is natural, do not get frustrated and provide a solution. If solutions are provided then it will stop them from learning on that occasion and take back the control given previously to them.
  • Eliminate top-down monitoring systems. Another way to ensure ownership is taken, in this way each person and department HAS to take responsibility for their actions and thus become accountable.
  • Think out loud. This mechanism ensures that all those around are aware of what is happening.
  • Embrace the inspectors. Instead of viewing them in a negative light, think of them as people who can help in achieving your mission. If something brilliant is being done in a company or team the inspectors can spread that good practice or achievement. However if there is a certain element that a team or company are struggling with then inspectors can assist, advice and help them in their difficult situation.

Mechanisms for Competence

  • Take deliberate action. These means to vocalise whatever action you are about to take. This mechanism helped massively in reducing errors because if an individual was about to make a mistake a colleague would stop them beforehand.
  • We learn (everywhere, all the time). Instead of just focusing on not making mistakes a culture of continuous learning should be adopted.
  • Don’t brief, certify. Often times when being briefed people play a passive role. Whereas with certifying instead of them being told what they have to do, they will be telling their leader what they need to do and hence play an active role.
  • Continually and consistently repeat the message.
  • Specify goals, not methods. This also allows new leaders to take ownership and helps in lifting their confidence.

Mechanisms for Clarity

  • Build trust and take care of your people. This extends beyond just their work lives and it means a genuine interest should be taken in people’s lives to accommodate them.
  • Use your legacy for inspiration. Instil a feeling of pride within the members of the organisation, this can be in many forms i.e. history, service provided, etc.
  • Use guiding principles for decision criteria.
  • Use immediate recognition to reinforce desired behaviours.
  • Begin with the end in mind.
  • Encourage a questioning attitude over blind obedience.
  • Don’t empower, emancipate. With emancipation, we are recognising the inherent genius, energy, and creativity in all people, and allowing those talents to emerge. Instead of being empowered this is fundamentally done by an outside force and continues to manifest the Leader-Follower methodology due to dependence on an external factor.


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