Author Interviews

David Marquet – Turning Followers Into Leaders.

David Marquet delivers the powerful message that leadership is not for the select few at the top. In highly effective organizations, there are leaders at every level. We call this Intent Based Leadership. Part story-telling, part leadership transformation, part actionable take-aways, and based on David’s experience turning around the nuclear submarine USS Santa Fe, this book leaves audiences reinvigorated to lead, with immediately actionable tools and a commitment to change.
Intent Based Leadership creates environments for people to contribute so that they feel valued. They set clear goals so their people know how to do their jobs. They push control and decision making down the organization so people take responsibility and rise to the occasion. They maintain unity of effort by ensuring the supporting pillars of technical competence and organizational clarity are in place. They create more leaders at every level.

Q: What is the backstory behind Turn the Ship Around? What was your influence?

I’d been trained in the navy to be a leader and the captain of a nuclear submarine. At the last minute, my assignment shifted to a different submarine and not like the one I was specifically trained for. This brought up a host of problems which can be basically characterized as ”The problem was not that I was giving bad orders it was that I was giving orders.”

I was forced to develop a system where I leaned back and the crew leaned into me. This was radically different than the traditional structure where we direct and the team below us reports back to us. This was also radically different than the traditional system of ”delegation”. It all started with the word intent. The officers would come to me and state their intentions, such as “I intend to submerge the submarine.” This gave them ownership, and involvement, responsibility, and activated their thinking.

Our focus was on the language that we used which we changed in three ways.
1. We changed from a language of prove and perform to improve and learn.
2. We changed from a language of passivity to a language of initiative and intent.
3. We changed from a language of invulnerability and certainty to a language of vulnerability and ambiguity.

It worked amazingly well in two ways. The morale soared and the performance dramatically improved. But the most amazing thing took 10 years to play out. Over that 10 years, 10 of the officers on board the USS Santa Fe were selected by the navy to also be submarine commanders. This is a highly disproportionate number. It attests to the power of this leadership model, which focuses on building more leaders, rather than focuses on the one leader’s ability to make decisions..

I was highly influenced by Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. We were applying that book which was designed at the personal level, to an organization.
I wanted to write the leadership book that I wished I’d had when I went through my leadership challenges.

Story: one of the critical moments was when I gave an order that could not be performed but the officer ordered it anyway, knowing it could not be done! This is when I realized my entire leadership training had been about giving orders but what I needed was to figure out how NOT to give orders.

Q: If you would want people to remember one thing from your book would what would it be?

If you are waiting to stop telling your people what to do until they speak up you have it backwards. You have to first stop telling them what to do so that they can speak up.

Q: What are the key attributes of a great leader in your eyes?

Great leaders try to remove themselves from being the center of attention. Rather than being the person that everyone runs to when the decision is made, great leaders build a team which is in essence a decision making machine. Great leaders give control and build more leaders, rather than take control and attract followers.

Q: What is the biggest weakness of leaders that this book can help uncover?

The psychological seductiveness of running around and telling people what to do all day long.

Q: Writing a book is tough, were there any surprises as you set out on that journey?

It was very tough for me. I’m an engineer and a physicist by training. I needed to learn how to be a word engineer. The first six drafts of the book were terrible because I wasn’t being open and vulnerable enough. They read like all the other leadership books which are in essence, I was a great leader and you should be more like me. There was an artificiality to the whole thing until I was so sick of it I just basically said “to hell with it”, and really opened myself up.

Q: Can you provide a specific example or story where reading has helped you learn from others’ experience? Was there a specific challenge where you were able to rely on others experience to make your decision?

Oh my gosh, there’re so many good books out there with so many great ideas. Going back to Dr. Covey’s Seven habits of highly effective people, his first habit is “be proactive” We just asked ourselves: “What would it sound like in an organization where everybody was proactive?” Then we make that happen.

Q: How did your leadership and ethical philosophy develop?

I think my ethical philosophy was innate and I had a deep sense of fairness, sensitivity to integrity, and a strong belief that everyone should have an equal chance based on their merits and effort. My leadership philosophy developed through trial and error, and was more of a practical application of language in the workplace and the observation of its results.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for aspiring authors?

Write with your finger tips not up in your head. On the first pass through it’s important to just get the words on the page. Editing time to writing time should be 10:1.

Q: What is Next for you and your writing projects?

I’m super excited. I just submitted the manuscript for my third book called “Leadership is Language.” It comes out 3 Feb 2020! It’s the hidden structure for the way we talk now, how it is programmed to achieve certain things which we actually don’t want, and how we should reprogram many of our standard phrases and interactions.

David Marquet is a student of leadership and organizational design, former nuclear submarine commander, Author of Amazon’s #1 Best Seller: Turn the Ship Around! And The Turn the Ship Around! Workbook, and one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers for 2018. David Marquet imagines a work place where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work place, where everyone is a leader. A 1981 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Captain Marquet served in the U.S. submarine force for 28 years. After being assigned to command the nuclear powered submarine USS Santa Fe –then ranked last in retention and operational standing – he realized the traditional leadership approach of “take control, give orders,” wouldn’t work. He “turned the ship around” by treating the crew as leaders, not followers, and giving control, not taking control. This approach took the Santa Fe from “worst to first,” achieving the highest retention and operational standings in the Navy. After Captain Marquet’s departure, the Santa Fe continued to win awards and promoted a disproportionate number of officers and enlisted men to leadership positions, including 10 subsequent submarine captains. Stephen R. Covey said it was the most empowering organization he’d ever seen and wrote about Captain Marquet’s leadership practices in his book, The 8th Habit. Captain Marquet is the author of Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Fortune magazine named it the #1 must-read business book of the year, and USA Today listed it as one of the top 12 business books of all time. He is also the author of The Turn the Ship Around Workbook, which is a companion workbook for implementing Intent-Based Leadership. Captain Marquet retired from the Navy in 2009, and now speaks to audiences around the globe who want to create empowering work environments that release the passion, initiative, and intellect of each person. This bold and highly effective framework is summarized as “give control, create leaders.” He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and in 2015, was named to the American Management Association’s “Leaders to Watch” list.

You can reach David via Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook

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