Good to Great (A Submariner’s Profile in Empowerment)
David Marquet is the founder and President of the consulting firm Practicum, Inc., and creator of the blog Leader – Leader (Leader to Leader). For those of us who are acquainted with David on social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, he often posts words of inspiration and motivation that are sometimes offered as points to ponder; things to make you stop and think. David’s messages inspire the empowerment of engaged people and leadership at all levels. He encourages leaders to release energy, intellect, and passion in everyone around them; to develop leaders not followers. This obviously comes natural for David, as he has been an inspirational leader, taking people and organizations from good to great, since his days in the Navy.
A proven practitioner and innovative thinker, David graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981, and led a distinguished 28 year career in the United States Navy’s Submarine Force, serving on submarines in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He commanded the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine USS Santa Fe (SSN 763), stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and completely turned around the boat. Under David’s leadership, the crew went from being “worst to first.” The USS Santa Fe earned numerous awards, such as the Arleigh Burke Award for being the most improved ship in the Pacific, as well as the Battle “E” award for most combat effective ship in Submarine Squadron Seven, and for retention excellence. David’s bold and highly effective leadership techniques emphasize process over personality and empowerment over ego. Noted author Dr. Stephen Covey rode USS Santa Fe and discusses one of Captain Marquet’s leadership practices in his book, The 8th Habit.[i-a] [ii-a]________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Command of the USS Santa Fe –
In early Jan. 1999, the USS Santa Fe experienced a change in leadership that would alter the way many on the crew would exercise leadership.[iii-a] The crew Marquet inherited was the lowest performing crew in the US submarine fleet. But it didn’t stay that way. What Marquet did was change the culture aboard his boat from one of permission to one of intent. Aboard his boat, his sailors didn’t ask permission, they announced their intentions. The captain was still in charge and could still affirm or deny the intention, but every action was owned by the person performing the action. He built in accountability. The crew aboard the Santa Fe wasn’t just accountable for the results; they were accountable for their actions. They were not just accountable to some arbitrary metric, they became accountable to themselves.[iv]
Through the process of running the day-to-day functions of the submarine and being trusted to do so, the crew came to understand that principles, not personality, ensured success. When they were trusted to make personnel decisions, relied upon with confidence for information and resources to get the job done, and invited to assertively exercise their individual strengths, they changed the way sailors viewed their jobs. Principles became their guides. Officers no longer waited for the captain to give direction. Instead, they began informing the captain of their intentions.[iii-b]
The crew was united and empowered, and the sailors began to take ownership of the submarine to a degree. They always held the key to empowerment within themselves. What they did was change their thinking from being followers to being leaders. Their guiding principle of empowerment read, “We encourage those below us to take action and support them if they make mistakes. We employ stewardship delegation, explaining what we want accomplished and allow flexibility in how it is accomplished.” Explaining what was wanted and allowing the chiefs the flexibility to determine how best to accomplish it had a drastic effect on the efficiency of the crew.[iii-c]
The key to empowering people is to not make them followers in the first place. This allows the managers (the chief petty officers) to be decision makers. They are the critical component to the completion of tasks that need to be completed. The sailors on Santa Fe are trained and educated to perform their particular skill sets to an advanced level. Trusting them to be decision makers, giving them access to vital information and supporting them when they make mistakes results in principle-based leaders that continue to grow.[iii-d]
Captain Marquet went on to command Submarine Squadron Three, a front-line submarine squadron in Pearl Harbor.[ii-b] Although that tour’s duration was only 13 months, David’s leadership again produced results. Marquet relinquished command with three of his squadron’s six fast-attack submarines deployed to the Western Pacific, a fact that Pacific Submarine Force commander Rear Adm. Jeffrey Cassias hailed as a huge accomplishment.[v-a]
“That Commodore Marquet is changing command with half of his squadron deployed is just the way he would’ve wanted it,” said Cassias. “It speaks volumes about the great challenges he has tackled during his command of Submarine Squadron 3.”[v-b]
At the time of David’s change of command ceremony Sept. 23, 2005, aboard USS Olympia (SSN 717) at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station, the USS Key West (SSN 722), USS Louisville (SSN 724) and USS Columbia (SSN 771) were deployed, having completed their deployment preparations under Marquet’s command. Additionally, Olympia completed a deployment in the Western Pacific, while USS Chicago (SSN 721) was nearing completion of its deployment preparations. The squadron’s sixth submarine, USS Honolulu (SSN 718), was nearing completion of maintenance availability in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.[v-c]
“Getting a submarine ready to deploy is not easy,” said Cassias. “It requires significant time training and certifying the crew, putting them through an intensive series of drills and inspections, and ensuring the ship is in peak material readiness, as well.”[v-d]
“Deploying four – almost five – of six submarines in a squadron is a great accomplishment for such a short tour,” said Cassias. “It’s something that wouldn’t have happened without a visionary leader at the helm.”[v-e]
Marquet, who was awarded the Legion of Merit by Cassias, credited his commanding officers and squadron staff for his success in preparing submarines to deploy.[v-f]
“It was a little over a year ago that I joined a happy few band of brothers here at Squadron 3, and we had a mission,” said Marquet. “The mission was very simple – the mission was to improve the combat effectiveness of our submarines.”[v-g]
With his “Turn this Ship Around!” leadership program, Captain Marquet focuses on the people side of today’s highly technological and complex organizations – providing mechanisms and practices that foster empowerment and initiative; minimize errors and rework; develop leaders at all levels; and embed continuous learning and improvement in the work environment. The result is dramatically improved and enduring operational excellence.[i-b]
David Marquet Develops Leaders –
Modern business requires moving beyond hierarchical leader-follower structures. The fastest and most effective way to accomplish this is by getting everyone in the organization to think like leaders. Practicum’s leadership development programs and leadership consulting stress empowerment over ego and process over personality. By learning to implement these ideas you will develop leaders throughout your organization and take the first step towards long-term organizational success.
The goal of leadership should be more than organizational effectiveness. Great leadership should:
- Achieve organizational excellence along with superior morale
- Embed mechanisms of excellence into the fabric of the organization, thereby creating enduring excellence independent of the leader’s tenure
- Spawn multiple additional leaders throughout the organization capable of further developing highly successful organizations.[vi]
David Marquet Delivers the Powerful Message that Anyone Can Be a Great Leader –
Great Leadership requires accomplishing three things. First, it must create a highly effective organization with superior morale. Second, leadership practices must be embedded into the fabric of the organization, beyond the current leader, to create an enduring leadership mentality. Finally, Great Leadership creates an organizational culture that spawns generations of additional leaders throughout the organization.
Accomplishing all three pieces of Great Leadership requires rejecting the traditional notion of leaders and followers, and instead embracing the concept of leaders and leaders. This method of leadership is based on empowerment, not ego, and process, not personality.
Based on his first-hand experience leading and turning around organizations, David Marquet espouses the following three overarching principles:
- Practical Empowerment: rejecting the notion of leaders and followers, instead having leaders and leaders
- Technical Competence: having a zealous dedication to preparation and knowing our craft
- Continuous Improvement: embracing learning as the primary activity of the organization[vii]
On Friday morning (Feb. 10), I saw one of David’s inspirational posts. It said, “Leadership is an action, not a position.” This simple quotation inspired me at that moment, and I thought about what David was saying. Nothing happens without action. Too often, people who call themselves ‘leaders’ fail their followers by not leading, and not inspiring action through those followers. This is one of my biggest pet peeves about leadership, and it bothers me that there are followers out there who are not being properly led. It bothers me that this kind of leader does not care about the fundamental growth of their followers. It bothers me that those followers are not finding the success they deserve because they have inept leaders who care only about their next promotion.
The leader-leader movement was started by Mr. Marquet after he saw first-hand the debilitating effects of leader-follower, the limitations of empowerment programs, and the liberating power of treating everyone as leaders.[viii] His goal is to change the way we interact as humans in a way that nourishes the natural proactivity, initiative, and creative energy of everyone. His call to action is to develop leaders at every level and to empower people; people throughout an organization.[ix]
My response to David’s quote was this:
“Give a leader a title, he’s only as ‘good’ as his character will allow.
Give a leader a responsibility, he’s only as ‘good’ as his people.
But, give a leader the title of coach & mentor,
and give him the responsibility to develop his people in a servant style,
and he goes from ‘good’ to GREAT.”
Copyright © Dale R. Wilson
Related Articles –
No Room for followers: A Guide to Creating Leaders at Every Level by David Marquet
Re-Imagining Leadership, Re-Energizing the Workplace by David Marquet
“Empowerment in action” – Santa Fe’s lessons at work in the private sector– By Andy Worshek – Practicum Newsletter, September 2010
Seven Key Benefits of an Empowered Workplace – (majorium.wordpress.com)
Do You Have Faith in Your People? – (majorium.wordpress.com)_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
*In my research of the Navy’s think tank, Deep Blue, I found the following article in the February 2006 issue of Seapower (Vol. 49, Number 2, page 6), The official publication of the Navy League of the United States, which discussed the broader role of Deep Blue as dictated under Admiral Mike Mullen (at the time, Chief of Naval Operations, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff):
A Broader Role For Deep Blue
Deep Blue, an internal Navy think tank founded in the wake of 9/11, is being given a far broader role within the service by Adm. Mike Mullen, chief of naval operations (CNO).
Deep Blue’s primary bailiwick was to provide the CNO with ideas about how to better support joint combat operations and advise him on his roles as the Navy’s service chief and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
But Mullen has expanded its purview to include short-notice staging of naval and joint force maritime component commanders to provide “deliberate, contingency, crisis and exercise planning.” Top officials of Deep Blue began reaching out months ago to Navy component commanders to support their planning needs and bolster tepid support within some sectors of the Navy. The office now is internally being revamped to handle its broader role under Mullen’s aegis.
Deep Blue’s new role is envisioned as similar to that of Checkmate, the lair of Air Force air and space power strategists that provides the Air Staff and warfighters with options that are logistically supportable and politically feasible. Founded in the mid-1970s, Checkmate provides research, analysis, operational planning and strategic concepts development.
Rear Adm. (Sel.) Philip H. Cullom, Deep Blue director, told Seapower that the office’s “CNO-directed realignment is consistent with its latest portfolio of current projects, which includes operational plan development, introduction of new technology to the fleet, global war on terrorism initiatives, naval operational concept development, the use of advanced analytics in data management and a number of classified efforts.”
Deep Blue’s broader mission includes projects such as real-world planning in the Pacific and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf.[x]
[i-a,b] http://www.afcea.org/events/west/09/documents/MarquetDavid.pdf – The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association – West 2009 – Documents: David Marquet – Accessed 10 February 2012 – http://www.afcea.org/
[iii-a,b,c,d] “Empowerment in Action – Santa Fe’s Lessons at Work in the Private Sector” – By Andy Worshek – Practicum Newsletter, September 2010 – http://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/email/newsletter/1410479805 – Accessed 10 February 2012 – Practicum, Inc. – http://www.practicuminc.com/
[iv] “If You Want Your People to Perform, Don’t Give Them Permission…Give them Intent” – By Simon Sinek – Posted 01/30/2009 – http://blog.startwithwhy.com/refocus/2009/01/if-you-want-your-people-to-perform-dont-give-them-permissiongive-them-intent.html – Accessed 10 February 2012 – Re:Focus (Simple Ideas to Help You Thrive) – http://blog.startwithwhy.com/
[v-a,b,c,d,e,f,g] “Marquet Hands Over Reins of Submarine Squadron 3” – By Lori Cravalho – Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs – Story Number: NNS050924-02, Posted 09/24/2005 – http://www.navy.mil/search/print.asp?story_id=20287&VIRIN=28525&imagetype=1&page=1 – Accessed 10 February 2012 – NAVY.mil (Official Website of the United States Navy) – http://www.navy.mil/
[ix] “David Marquet – LinkedIn Profile” – http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidmarquet – Accessed, via subscription to LinkedIn and authorized connection with Mr. Marquet, 10 February 2012 – LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com
[x] “A Broader Role For Deep Blue” – SEAPOWER Magazine (The Official Publication of the Navy League of the United States), February 2006 (Vol. 49, Number 2, page 6) – http://www.navyleague.org/sea_power/feb06-06.php – Accessed 10 February 2012 – Navy League of the United States – http://www.navyleague.org/
Photo Credits –