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Turn the Ship Around! L. David Marquet

A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders

September 12, 2021 - 500 words - 3 mins Found a typo? Edit me
leadership management

The book is about his leadership theories to how he implemented a fresh leadership model. Including the limitations of a hierarchical top-down model, why/how he failed to empower his team earlier in his career, and how the circumstances for Santa Fe were ideal for him to experiment with the new leader-leader approach.

Most people unconsciously divide the world into leaders vs followers, and make assumptions about what each group can/can’t do. Such assumptions influence our thoughts and actions that impact the performance of individual employees and the organization.

It is common for enthusiastic employees to suggest new ideas, and then they are told “it’s not your job” or “that won’t work”. People feel frustrated and eventually stop trying or leave the organization. Bosses also feel frustrated when their staff would rather do the minimum rather than to innovate or take responsibility.

The leader-leader model recognizes that everyone has the ability and potential to lead. It taps on individual potential at all levels, reduces dependency on a single leader and delivers sustained performance.

The 3 key components: Control, Competence and Clarity


Control refers to the freedom and authority to make decisions about why, what and how you’re going to work. The goal is to delegate decision-making control as far as possible in the organization.

  • Find the genetic code for control and rewrite it.
  • Act your way to new thinking.
  • Short, early conversations make efficient work.
  • Use “I intend to…” to turn passive followers into active leaders.
  • Resist the urge to provide solutions.
  • Eliminate top-down monitoring systems.
  • Think out loud (both superiors and subordinates).


People at every level must be technically competent to make the right decisions. If you give people additional responsibility without equipping them with the required knowledge and resources, things will fall apart.

  • Take deliberate action.
  • We learn (everywhere, all the time).
  • Don’t brief, certify.
  • Continually and consistently repeat the message.
  • Specify goals, not methods.


For people at all levels to make effective decisions, they must be fully aligned with the organization’s purpose, and thoroughly understand the organization’s goals and decision-making criteria.

  • Achieve excellence, don’t just avoid errors.
  • Build trust and take care of your people.
  • Use your legacy for inspiration.
  • 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.

Favourite quotes

Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.


David Marquet talks about leadership that turns the ship around in his keynote at the Worldwebforum.

220 pages