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Summary

"Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers."

David Marquet, an experienced Navy officer, was used to giving orders. As newly appointed captain of the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered submarine, he was responsible for more than a hundred sailors, deep in the sea. In this high-stress environment, where there is no margin for error, it was crucial his men did their job and did it well. But the ship was dogged by poor morale, poor performance, and the worst retention in the fleet.

Marquet acted like any other captain until, one day, he unknowingly gave an impossible order, and his crew tried to follow it anyway. When he asked why the order wasn’t challenged, the answer was, "Because you told me to." Marquet realized he was leading in a culture of followers, and they were all in danger unless they fundamentally changed the way they did things.

That’s when Marquet took matters into his own hands and pushed for leadership at every level. Turn the Ship Around! is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy's traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control.

Before long, each member of Marquet’s crew became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. The crew became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and the Santa Fe started winning awards and promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command.

No matter your business or position, you can apply Marquet’s radical guidelines to turn your own ship around. The payoff: a workplace where everyone around you is taking responsibility for their actions, where people are healthier and happier, where everyone is a leader.

©2013 L David Marquet (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC

Critic reviews

"I don't know of a finer model of this kind of empowering leadership than Captain Marquet. And in the pages that follow you will find a model for your pathway." (Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
"David Marquet is the kind of leader who comes around only once in a generation. He doesn't just know how to lead, he knows how to build leaders. His ideas and lessons are invaluable to anyone who wants to build an organization that will outlive them." (Simon Sinek, optimist and author of Start With Why)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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Compelling story of leadership at all levels

Really engaging use of story and anecdote to present principles and mechanisms of leadership and effective teamwork in an unpredictable world. The ideas feel immediately relevant to me in my work as an Agile Process Coach (helping businesses and teams find more effective ways to work with each other). The advice here seems both aspiratoinal and realistic.

I found this book via a reference in Mike Burrows' Agendashift book, which offers a practical set of workshops with a similar "end in mind".

I'm new to spoken books, and found that listening at 1.35x speed (on the Android app) or 1.5x (in the browser player) worked best for me. I'm not sure if David Marquet is a particularly slow narrator, but it's great that the Audible player has the option to speed up easily. Good to hear the author narrating his own ideas.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex Wolf
  • Teddington, Middlesex United Kingdom
  • 21-07-15

Holacracy at it's best

If you could sum up Turn the Ship Around! in three words, what would they be?

Practical, Applicable, Provocative

What did you like best about this story?

Real life example of how a leadership model removed hierarchical order in a world where historically hierarchy is the only way the military has operated in. The journey of David Marquet including lessons learnt from the mistakes made - an honest appraisal of a Captains journey to successfully 'turn the ship around'

Which character – as performed by L. David Marquet – was your favourite?

David Marquet himself

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes - I listened to this over two days while travelling by train around the country

Any additional comments?

All leaders should read this book. An alternative view of how to effectively run a team. I would also recommend listening toHolacracy by Brian Robertson as a great companion to this book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very interesting and thought provoking

This is an excellent story or how Leadership should be done, empowering everyone to be a leader and freeing the top level to focus on looking after people rather than barking orders.

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Finally some meaning to the words

I first heard about Marquet through a friend who showed me a video about his empowerment ideas, and I sought him out immediately. Working in a hierarchical structure which talks about empowerment but lacks understanding about it, this book was interesting because it had practical examples to back up the theory all tied up in a story. I’ve begun implementing some of those ideas and being able to hear about methods used has made he transition all the smoother. I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone truly interested in this concept.

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Easy to listen to book. with some great points

Easy to listen to book. content is backed up and summarised as you go along. this is a semi story fashion and so flows smoother than more text books can.

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A great book. Brilliantly read by the author

This is a great story. A warts and all description of a major cultural change in a apparently rigid organisation. the author brings the narrative to life making it a compelling listen.

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brilliant

What a brilliant book! If organisations take just 10% of this thinking they'll improve significantly.

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Outstanding

Wonderful paradigm busting leadership model. Great combination of thought provoking ideas you want to adopt as soon as you grasp them, and a riveting story 😊

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A totally inspiring journey

An enlightening and inspiring journey on the US atomic submarine Santa Fe from leadership empowerment to leadership emancipation. Any leader in any organisation can learn why it is time to leave leader-follower leadership approaches behind.

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A book containing great information

I enjoyed the weaving of the stories onboard an operational submarine with the learnings and observations of differing leadership styles along the way.

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  • Bret
  • 26-07-13

Can't wait to put this to work-track needs editing

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Not only educational, but entertaining. I definitely think this was time well spent.

Any additional comments?

The audio track needs to be re-edited. The cuts often resulted in repeated words or phrases, indicating that an editor needs to take a listen and re-splice the track.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Buddha Weatherby
  • 02-09-15

Phenomenally Enlightened Leadership

I served 4 years each with the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army and this just became one of my favorite books on leadership . (I have read hundreds.)

This book demonstrates the potential of unleashing and supporting dedicated, but otherwise normal people to achieve their missions, without unnecessary friction to impede them. I have previously only known of this style of leadership through emancipation in small elite teams and task forces.

It is fascinating to learn how well it worked on the scale of an entire submarine crew. Captain Marquet's turn-around story for his crew is quite exemplary.

I also recommend The Mission, The Men, and Me; as well as, Team of Teams. They cover much of the same ground from very different angles.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Kristin
  • 08-05-15

Great book but fire the audio technician

I highly recommend this book to managers (especially those in the Department of Defense); however, having paragraphs repeated sometimes was annoying. The audio production could definitely be improved. The author made up for any shortcomings he had as a reader by being totally engaged with the text.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • J te A
  • 17-02-15

Good example of cultural change.

Learned a lot about the Navy and its ways. Like any major institution, its ways are often deeply engrained in its culture. This is an example on how to improve effectiveness, staying with the original principles of the institution. The implementation of empowerment in the Navy is not something that can be "planned and executed", it must be experienced and tried in order to take place. This is a great achievement and thank you David for sharing how such a process can take place in any "institutionalized" organization, basicly any midsized or larger organization. Another main perspective of the book is about personal leadership. Read it ( or listen to the audio) and become inspired, this is not an easy thing, but maybe more natural than it seems. Clear narration with perfect intonations by the author himself, I enjoyed the submarine stories too!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Gerardo
  • 10-05-14

The Best Leadership Book I've Read

There are many leadership books that have lots of great quotations, thoughts and intellectually rich thoughts with a few examples.

This book is different. It is told as a story. A real world-story that illustrates the challenges, the tension between the old and the new ways of doing things, the risks, the necessary managing up , and the results of 'leader-leader' leadership style.

It is a fun book to read, full of practical knowledge. Almost like a real-world fable.

If you manage teams or if you aspire to be a great leader, this is the book you should get first. It has the power of changing an entire organization.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 17-05-17

Excellence

Woven into the engaging story are pearls of leadership wisdom. The listener does not have to recall isolated ideas but is shown how to accomplish the demonstrated leadership objectives. Delivery by the narrator is perfect.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bryon E Brandt
  • 02-12-15

Becoming a Leader That Others Want To Follow

When I read this book it felt like it was my psychic biography. I wasn't a nuclear submarine captain, but I did train Iraqi soldiers in Iraq with similar results from similar techniques and thought processes about what people are capable of with the right leadership.

If you want to achieve more, because your people achieve more, this is the book for you.

But it does seem like a bit of a conundrum, that if you apply what David teaches, that you likely become a leader that others want to follow, even though this isn't the intent of his Leader-Leader, leaders-at-every level model.

Though, if you continue grow and develop the people under and around you, this will only be a temporary plateau as they continue to grow into their full fullness and potential as leaders in their own right.

This book means so much to me, and is such a nice alternative to the all too common and sub-optimizing command and control, that I share it with almost everyone I know.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 20-08-15

Great book with some technical issues

If you could sum up Turn the Ship Around! in three words, what would they be?

I am considering making this required reading for everyone in my organization. This book along with a handful of others have served as a "rudder" for our management style. Getting the whole team to invest in the Leader, leader model is the real challenge. I believe, as Marquet suggests, that if we accomplish this in our firm, the sky is the limit.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • David B. Waples
  • 23-07-15

Management theory put to work in a real world situation

What made this book special to me is that it was read by the author who has great passion for the leadership methods implemented on USS Santa Fe. I highly recommend this book.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jason Richards
  • 17-09-18

Great book, spotty editing

Nothing against the author/reader, but there are a lot of editing mistakes in the audio book. Hearing the same line read twice in a row is somewhat jarring, and it happens many times.

The book is great, however. Highly recommend.