Book Cover

We continue the re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! This week we take care of all of the pages numbered with italics. Front matter is generally a tack on; however, in this case, there are some important clues to how Marquet’s management style evolved.


The forward for Turn the Ship Around is written by Stephen Covey. Dr. Covey is well known for the book The Seven Habit of Highly Effective People (Featured on Re-read Saturday). In the forward, Covey recounts his opportunity to ride on the USS Santa Fe with Marquet in command. He recounts that during the voyage that he did not actually see the captain give an order. The level of trust and empowerment was amazing.

Covey liked the book because it told the story of self-discovery that shows the transition of Marquet from a standard command-and-control leader into something that is completely different. Covey suggests that the reader will want to read this book because it shows the reader how to be a leader in the world of knowledge-work and knowledge-creation.


Marquet begins the introduction with a variation of the classic observation that organizations state that they hire only the best people and then turn around and micromanage them.  This is frustrating. Mr. Marquet points out the structure of the U.S. Navy is generally leader and follower. The leader-follower model was established for manual labor where the leader is superior in knowledge and training to those that he or she directs. In today’s Navy (and most work environments) leaders are dealing with people that probably as smart or smarter (or at least more well-trained in the most current technologies) than the person leading them. The leader-follower model creates more problems than it solves. One the problems the leader-follower model creates is that the performance of the team or organization is limited to the ability of the single leader. Marquet’s solution is to embrace a leader-leader model. The leader-leader paradigm doesn’t require that the leader always be right, rather this model allows other leaders to be right. This creates a more resilient organization and helps grow new leaders.

In the introduction, Marquet recounted a bit of his journey to the USS Santa Fe. The journey is important because it informs the ultimate transition to the leader he became later in his career. One of the vignettes that stuck with me occurred on the USS Sunfish. On the Sunfish, Marquet was a junior officer when the captain of the Sunfish asked him why he wouldn’t give the sonar operators permission to use the sonar in active mode.  The sonar technicians needed experience with using sonar in an environment and pinging merchant ships for practice fit the bill. The captain suggested that rather than waiting to ask for permission or an order, Marquet should state his intent to “go active” for training. The simple act of letting the sonar technicians practice with active sonar generated much needed real-life experience and was a morale boost. The idea of stating intention rather than asking for permission was the genesis of what later became Marquet’s leadership style. The experience on the Sunfish was different than other boats he was on before joining the Santa Fe.

Marquet concludes the introduction by noting that the book is a call to action to install a new leadership style.

Cast of Characters

The 13 primary characters are named and Marquet shares a bit of context for each. 

Remember to buy a copy of the book and re-along:  Turn the Ship Around!

Previous Installments
Week 1: Game Plan