When you’re a leader, you have the watch.
Through seven deployments commanding sailors in the complex and dangerous world of nuclear submarine warfare, Jon Rennie experienced a deep form of leadership. On a sub, there is no escape. No “after work.” No home to commute to. You live and lead side-by-side with the crew, every day.
What Rennie didn’t realize was how much his time underwater prepared him to lead global industrial businesses and startups across multiple industries.
Becoming a leader worth following begins—and ends—with people.
Tell me a little bit about your book
I Have the Watch is a collection of 23 short stories from 30 years of leading people in both the Navy and Corporate America. It focuses on the people side of leadership. The premise of the book is that leadership is a people business and, if we ever forget that, we will be less effective as leaders.
Was there an experience that caused you to see a need for I Have Watch?
I continue to be disappointed in the level of leadership I observe in Corporate America. Too many people are promoted into management with little or no leadership skills. This is why so many employees are disengaged and disinterested in their jobs. My book was written to remind people that leadership requires a different set of skills. When you are promoted to management, you become a leader, not a doer.
Is there one short story from your book you would like to share?
I tell the story of a boss who had my back. As a young engineer in my first job outside of the Navy, I had a major product failure at the test lab. Instead of chastising me and demoting me, my boss encouraged me to get back up and redesign the product. The result was breakthrough technology and a new product that lead-frogged the competition. It also opened the door for me to have a long career in this industry. All this happened because one boss had my back.
What was the most challenging thing about spending so much time underwater?
I made seven deployments on the USS Tennessee at the end of the Cold War. The most challenging part of leading on a nuclear submarine at sea is the close quarters. We were surrounded by our team 24/7. There was no going home or getting away. We worked with the team that deployed for 80 days straight with no time off. While it was difficult, I developed deep relationships with the people that worked for me.
What does a great leader look like to you?
A great leader is not in it for themselves. They are in it because they want to make a difference. They put their team ahead of themselves with the expressed purpose of completing the mission. They understand the three most important aspects of leadership – people, motivation, and the goal.
What is the biggest takeaway that you hope a reader will take from I Have Watch?
I hope they will be reminded that leadership matters. Great leaders can take an underperforming team and get them to excel. I hope they see that all our plans and strategies are nothing without the people that bring them to life. A plan without a dedicated team is like a ship without a crew, it’s just a hunk of cold steel in the harbor. People bring our plans to life.
Writing a book is tough, were there any surprises as you set out on that journey?
In the development and writing of I Have The Watch, I went on an unexpected journey. I wrote about it in this post Here.
What is next for you?
I am currently working on a new book, “ALL IN THE SAME BOAT: 10 Lessons in Nuclear Submarine Leadership.” This book contains a lot more stories from my days as a junior officer on the USS Tennessee. Each chapter is filled with stories from the Navy and how I applied those lessons in Corporate America.
Purchase I Have The Watch Here
Jon is a Business Leader, Author, and Speaker. He is Co-Founder, President & CEO of Peak Demand Inc. He served as a U.S. Naval Officer on Nuclear Submarines and has more than 20 years leading industrial businesses in North America.
The most important lesson he’s learned during these years is that leadership matters. Leadership can make a significant difference in the performance of any organization. He shares his thoughts and insights on business and leadership with the desire to create better leaders. His hope is that his work inspires you to look at leadership in a new light.
His latest leadership book, I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following is an Amazon bestseller.
He writes for Work of Honor, a community of veterans and business professionals committed to combining best in class business and military operational strategies to create a strong economic community.
Jon can be reached via Website, Podcast, Twitter, Instagram & LinkedIn