L. David Marquet was set to become a captain in the Navy’s Pacific submarine fleet. He was assigned to takeover the USS Olympia. He spent nearly a year learning the ins and outs of that submarine. With just weeks before the takeover, he was informed that he would instead take over for the USS Santa Fe—the worst performing submarine in the entire Navy’s fleet.

In addition to the Santa Fe being the laughing stock of the fleet, the actual submarine was different than what David had been preparing for. Not even six months into the command he gave an order that was impossible to achieve with the set up the Santa Fe had. But that didn’t stop the officer from still ordering the crew member to act. Upon failure to act because it was an impossible command, David realized something: his men had been trained to do whatever he said—even if it was the wrong thing to do. He needed his crew to lead instead of follow.

What came of this was intent-based leadership. And it is for that reason David joins us on Anchored in Education today. If we apply to our schools what David applied to the Santa Fe, we could see magic happen. Sort of like what happened when David created a submarine full of leaders. Listen to today’s episode to find out what happened on the Santa Fe. 

About David

Captain David Marquet imagines a work place where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work–a place where everyone is a leader.

A 1981 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Captain Marquet served in the U.S. submarine force for 28 years. After being assigned to command the nuclear powered submarine USS Santa Fe–then ranked last in retention and operational standing–he realized the traditional leadership approach of “take control, give orders,” wouldn’t work. He “turned his ship around” by treating the crew as leaders, not followers, and giving control, not taking control. This approach took the Santa Fe from “worst to first,” achieving the highest retention and operational standings in the navy.

After Captain Marquet’s departure from the ship, the Santa Fe continued to win awards and promoted a disproportionate number of officers and enlisted men to positions of increased responsibility, including ten subsequent submarine captains. Further, having been on the ship, Stephen R. Covey said it was the most empowering organization he’d ever seen and wrote about Captain Marquet’s leadership practices in his book, The 8th Habit.

Captain Marquet is the author of Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. When it came out, Fortune magazine named it the #1 must-read business book of the year, and USA Today listed it as one of the top 12 business books of all time.

Captain Marquet retired from the Navy in 2009, and speaks to those who want to create empowering work environments that release the passion, initiative, and intellect of each person. His bold and highly effective framework is summarized as “give control, create leaders.”

He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and in 2015 was named to the American Management Association’s “Leaders to Watch” list.

Resources from this episode: