Michael Abrashoff first gained business notoriety with his first book, It’s Your Ship, where he presented the leadership model he used during his very successful Navy career and more specifically as Skipper of the USS Benfold (DDG 65). In his follow-up book, GET YOUR SHIP TOGETHER, Abrashoff, who now serves as the CEO of Grassroots Leadership, outlines the leadership principles of six other successful leaders (2 military & 4 civilian).
Each one of the individuals profiled here has a tremendous amount of leadership knowledge to pass on. While each person and each situation is uniquely different, there exists a commonality revolving around servant leadership. Although I don’t know that any one of the six would describe themselves as servant leaders, that is the common thread you will see that has helped make each one a success.
“Buddy” Gengler is an Army 1st Lt. that served in Iraq. He commanded an artillery force that got their primary mission recalibrated to that of being a quick reaction force; something they weren’t trained to be. Not only did they perform their mission flawlessly under Gengler ‘s leadership, but he brought each and every person under his command home safely. The main thing I took away from reading about Buddy Gengler is that as a leader, you can’t possibly know everything. Know when it is time to seek outside help to bring your team up to speed.
Trish Karter is the co-founder and CEO of Dancing Deer Baking Company in Boston. Karter’s mission with Dancing Deer is to show what a positive force small business can be. Most of the focus here is on Trish’s team building ability and the steps and bumps along the way to making this small business a national success. Trish gives her team leadership that centers around personal relationships and caring deeply for each individual, but that leadership is also tempered with just the right amount of tough love.
Next Abrashoff profiles Roger Valine, the former CEO of Vision Service Plan (VSP), the country’s largest eye-care benefits plan provider. Fresh out of college at Cal State, Valine went to work for VSP as a manager trainee in 1973 and worked his way up the ladder to become CEO in 1992 until his retirement in 2008. During his 16 year tenure as CEO, he was highly accessible to his employees, preferring even to be addressed as Rog by every employee. Again, we see a leader who was very caring and personally involved with his people, but also very firm when it was warranted.
Abrashoff then goes on to chronicle the career of one of his old shipmates, Al Collins. Collins took the words of mother who told him, “You’ll never be a great leader until you’re a great follower.” and began a Navy career that took him from an enlisted Boatswains Mate recruit to full bird Captain and Skipper of the USS Fitzgerald. You can almost say Collins “learned” his way to the top. He led his crew with great compassion, but also expected great results.
Alchemist Laura Folse is a VP at British Petroleum; a position in an industry with an almost impenetrable glass ceiling for female executives. Laura began her career with Amoco who was later bought by BP, and worked her way up to VP of technology. Her leadership excites her people to adopt her vision and follow her toward a common goal. The main thing I took away from Laura’s story is that real leaders aren’t afraid to follow; almost an identical message to what Al Collin’s mother taught him.
The book concludes with OIC Ward Clapham of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Yes, I know, you probably just had a vision of Dudley Do-Right saving Nell from Dirty Dick Dastardly, but in the real world, just like any police force, the RCMP faces tremendous challenges. Ward Clapham introduced his officers to a type of policing that involved community involvement that has now become an accepted practice throughout the RCMP. The main leadership principle I took away here is that real change comes from evolution not revolution.
Throughout the book, Abrashoff injects his own experience from his distinguished Navy career. I’ve read a ton of leadership books and I have to list this one as one of the best. The principles detailed are presented in such as way as to be applicable and there is definitely something here that any leader can apply. This is just good stuff.
Monty Rainey is a District Manager with over 14 years in the self storage industry currently overseeing 21 stores in the Austin & San Antonio, TX area. He is also a leadership coach and public speaker. For a free consultation, please contact Monty at 830-743-2139 or visit his website at http://www.montyrainey.com .