Leadership is Language - The hidden power of what you say, and what you don't
How much do I want to read more? 8/10
Interesting foreword. It reminds me how I wanted to show my colleagues I know everything. And how embarassed I would feel when there was something I didn't know. Or when someone knew something I could have learn from.
Wow this book is a good find. I wouldn't think of it about the title.
I like the author's approach, and I can relate, because like him, I had this feeling of "superiority", of "I should know it all".
The shift he experienced as a captain on this submarine is incredible. I should definitely learn from that.
FOREWORD - Shane Mac
I’ve spent my life trying to make it look like I had all the answers. I needed everyone to think I was smart.
We had enough capital, we had the right people, and yet everyone was miserable.
It took me a long time to see and admit it—but I was the problem. When I didn’t know the answers, I felt insecure and I did not want people to see it.
Everyone left. The company was recapitalized, and all the investors lost their money. No one else got a dollar. And I was depressed.
Then I changed.
Curiosity was our core value. We celebrated what we didn’t know, and know-it-alls weren’t welcome.
I hired people and asked them to teach me.
There was no need to ask for permission.
empowerment so more people have the skills and agency to act in the service of the greatest good.
the more permission that is needed, the less people will be empowered to think and lead.
Ultimately, I saw my job as CEO evolve to a place where my goal was to make as few decisions as possible. That’s a long distance away from the guy who had to hide behind a mask of All Knowledge.
I used to think I was special.
I felt pretty sure I was better at getting stuff done—and just plain better—than the people I worked with.
In my haste to get stuff done, I left no time for others to make their own contributions.
There were plenty of signs that my view was distorted.
People would hesitantly offer a good idea every now and then.
Once in a while, I would make a mistake, directing my team in a way that wasn’t optimal or was just plain wrong.
TURNING THE SHIP AROUND
I needed to know how the ship worked. This meant I had to admit to my crew that for many of the details, I did not know the answers. That was scary.
On our first day at sea, the crew and I were sizing each other up. I instinctively conformed to the role of captain as I’d been programmed: I would give the orders and they would follow them.
Then, early on, I ordered something technically impossible for Santa Fe: second gear on a motor that had only one. The order was immediately parroted by an officer, though he knew it made no sense. The sailor ordered to carry it out just shrugged helplessly and my error was revealed to all.
This was a life-changing moment for me.
Here on Santa Fe, I felt like I knew only one out of one hundred parts of what I needed to do. If I couldn’t count on my own officers to point out an obvious mistake like this one, we’d end up killing the wrong people. Maybe even ourselves. Something needed to change.
All my leadership training up to that point had been about making decisions and getting the team to implement them. I had never questioned this paradigm until that moment aboard Santa Fe.
The problem, I realized, wasn’t that I’d given a bad order, it was that I was giving orders in the first place.
I was giving them a pass on thinking itself.
The officers of Santa Fe and I made a deal that day. I agreed to never give another order. Instead, I would provide intent, the goal of what it was we were trying to achieve. They agreed never to wait to be told what to do. Instead, they would provide their intentions to me, how they were going to achieve my intent.
replacing “request permission to” with “I intend to.”
we went from one leader and 134 followers to 135 leaders with a bias for action and thinking.
The crew of Santa Fe continued to outperform their peers after I left. Ten of the officers from that time period were themselves selected to command submarines, five became squadron commanders or the equivalent, and two (so far) have been promoted to admiral. In the navy, this track record is, to put it mildly, extraordinary.
LEADERSHIP IS LANGUAGE
None of this happened because we became more skilled, knowledgeable, or dedicated to the job.
What we could control was how we talked to each other, the words we used. Starting with me.
As I changed the way I communicated with the rest of the crew, it affected the way they communicated with me and with each other. Changing the way we communicated changed the culture. Changing the culture transformed our results.
Changing our words changed our world.
- We replaced a reactive language of convince, coerce, comply, and conform with a proactive language of intent and commitment to action
- We replaced a language of “prove and perform” with a language of “improve and learn.”
- We replaced a language of invulnerability and certainty with a language of vulnerability and curiosity.
Words went both ways—our language revealed our thinking and changed our thinking.
I’d always believed that I couldn’t remain quiet because people wouldn’t speak up. Finally, I realized that people weren’t speaking up because I couldn’t remain quiet.
I needed to entrust people with authority and autonomy in order to give them the opportunity to prove themselves.
once people were given autonomy over their work, became connected to a purpose that mattered, and felt like part of a team, they became happier. Morale soared. Then the performance improved.
This started happening within a week.