Over ten years ago, just a few years after its initial publication, I heard about the book, “It’s Your Ship” by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff. In the spirit of full disclosure, I judged the book by its cover and its title. I thought to myself, “What does leading a crew have to do with the brutal realities of leading an organization operating within the world of business?”
Fast forward to about five years ago. I’ve made plans to attend a learning and development conference. However, in addition to the general and breakout sessions, I’ve been invited to participate in a pre-conference session dedicated to those with more senior titles in the field. I’m intrigued and decide to participate. Most of the day is going to be facilitated discussion sessions on key topics in the field. The closing keynote speaker will then be none other than Captain D. Michael Abrashoff (USN, Retired). It was during his presentation and the following Q&A session that I became hooked and had to read his book. I feel compelled to share a brief review of my observations from the book and invite you to join in a dialogue to share yours.
As an opening disclaimer, let me clarify that boy was I wrong about this book. I am convinced that every leader, whether of a team, an organization or themselves, should read it. More so, I have included it on my short list of business, organizational and leadership development ‘must read’ classics. Let’s get to the review.
Overall and most importantly, “It’s Your Ship” is practical in every way.
Every lesson that Captain Abrashoff shares was learned under the tutelage of his mentor, from good or bad examples of others, from the school of hard knocks, from common sense (which isn’t necessarily common practice), or a combination of these real-world experiential learning instruments. The lessons are a powerful blend of business (work) management and leadership principles and practices.
In a nutshell, Captain Abrashoff teaches us that even in a traditional command-and-control environment, a committed, savvy and genuine leader can excel in adopting the mindset and actions of 1) a servant leader for the people they lead, 2) a dedicated steward to their up-line leadership, and 3) an assertive collaborator with their peers. He also shows us that the way to lead in this manner is very simple and real, as are the rewards for doing so. It isn’t about touchy-feely.
It’s about demonstrating and engaging human dignity and human potential to achieve organizational effectiveness and success.
There is a common saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” After having heard and studied the lessons taught by Captain Abrashoff, I can tell you without hesitation that in this specific case, someone who did it—successfully led and served—is trying to teach us from his real-world experience. I would challenge you to read and study it, if you haven’t already. If you have, go back and study it again.
As a Talent Management/HR executive with over 20 years of talent and human resource management experience, I strive to deliver value generating services to internal and external clients. This has provided me with the ability to lead or influence people in developing solutions to achieve higher levels of measurable success. My professional interests are targeted toward helping clients achieve their optimum performance through people solutions.