Empower The Steering Of The Ship

An article in Wired magazine shows pictures of cockpits of various high speed, high performance vehicles. It’s fascinating to see all the knobs and dials. What’s most interesting was the captain’s station of the Oasis of the Seas – the world’s longest cruise ship. The picture shows lots of displays and controls. In the article, the captain indicates the port and starboard command chairs have built-in joysticks for controlling the ship and are typically operated by other officers.

It turns out the captain’s job is not to steer the ship at all. How many times are leaders compared to ‘captains steering the ship’? How many times are CEOs of companies in trouble described as needing to “turn the ship around”? How many times are articles written about staff “going overboard after their captain”?  And now it turns out, that captains don’t steer ships at all. So what are they doing?

The captain’s job, according to the captain of the Oasis of the Seas, is “mentoring and teaching”. He’s empowering the steering of the ship and coaches his staff to do it well. He manages the ship, but he doesn’t actually do the work himself. That’s how the best leaders steer the largest ships in the world – not by doing it themselves, but by empowerment.

Leaders who empower direct reports to successfully steer the ship develop productive teams.

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