A top-of-the-class Naval Academy graduate and seasoned submariner, David Marquet, received the greatest honour any naval officer could receive - he was selected to command his very own submarine.
What he hadn't realised then, was that it wasn't just a terrific recognition. It was an equally terrifying challenge.
His submarine, the USS Santa Fe (SSN-763), carried the lowest-rated crew in the entire US submarine fleet—poor morale, poor performance, the worst retention rate, you name it.
A month into his leadership role, his crew was running a simple drill, where they pretended that the submarine's main nuclear reactor was at fault and the propulsion was shifted to a smaller, electric propulsion motor (EPM).
"Ahead two-thirds," Captain Marquet ordered the crew.
"Ahead two-thirds," repeated the officer on deck, David's second in command.
Nothing happened. The order was not carried out.
Several awkward seconds later, David noticed the junior who's steering the submarine, squirming in his seat. When asked what was going on, the helmsman reported that there was no ahead two-thirds in this EPM, unlike his previous submarines.
The Captain's number two then admitted that he repeated David's command, despite knowing that it was wrong.
Soaked in the traditional leader-follower philosophy, David realised that his crew would carry out anything he ordered, whether right or wrong. While the people at the top had all the authority, those at the bottom had all the information. And when the leader was wrong in such a top-down culture? The entire crew could capsize.
A conventional reaction to this problem would be to push the information up to the authority. But David did the opposite - he moved all the authority down to the information.
"The leader-leader structure is fundamentally different from the leader-follower structure. At its core is the belief that we can all be leaders and, in fact, it’s best when we all are leaders. Leadership is not some mystical quality that some possess and others do not. As humans, we all have what it takes, and we all need to use our leadership."
~ L. David Marquet
With his revolutionary leader-leader model, Captain Marquet transformed the USS Santa Fe from worst to first; they became the highest-rated crew, not just that year, but in the entire US naval history.
The submarine continued to rack up awards and enlisted more officers to positions of command than any other submarine. David didn't just turn the ship around, he made it into a leadership factory.
As you'd have already guessed, this month's MRR features stories and lessons from the Captain Marquets of Indian SaaS, steering their own ships around in the cloud.
~ Sadhana, on behalf of Team SaaSBOOMi