Intentionality & The Story of the Worst to Best Navy Submarine

Intentionality. Was that a spoiler? Nah – check this out.
Intentionality. Was that a spoiler? Nah – check this out.

Intentionality has been a thing that we’ve been grappling with a lot these days – more than usual. What are we doing? Why? What affect are we hoping to see from a decision, a process or a partnership? And of course, examining decisions to ensure that they aren’t made in a vacuum. And so when I received an email from my friend Michael Fagans, a photo editor for the Bakersfield Californian, a passionate advocate for food security and a fine film-maker, about a video on intentional leadership, I was intrigued. Truth be told, upon seeing that the video was just over 35 minutes long I was slightly annoyed, but I trust Michael, and the story grabbed my attention.

You see, it’s an interview with David Marquet, a Navy submarine captain who, in just one year, turned the worst performing submarine in the Navy into the best. What’s more, his approach to intentional, Leader-Leader based management has created a sea change (no pun intended) in the way those under his command have performed.

Marquet describes the difference between a traditional Leader-Follower style of management, and his Leader-Leader approach. In the process he also dismantles “empowerment” programs, which are generally taught in the Leader-Follower model, where empowerment is bestowed upon someone, which reinforces that it is granted from above and in a traditional, hierarchical power structure. Keep in mind that this is coming from a Navy submarine captain, one of the most hierarchical cultures around.

He also identifies the challenges of instituting this form of thought (which is more accurate than keeping it within the context of organizational leadership). Being able to identify and address issues of competence and clarity were the biggest challenges for him – making sure that his crew knew the technical and tactical aspects of their jobs (competence), as well as that he and his senior leadership team were clear about their mission(s) and objectives (clarity). Marquet asserts that those can be achieved through training and hard work.

What was inspiring was also that he sees this as a process that works throughout all of life, and I’m exploring all of the ways that that is true, from helping my kids learn, to setting a course for how our family lives, serves and targets the most important things in our lives.

Take some time to check out this video, and examine this approach to thought, leadership and life.

David Marquet & Steven Covey aboard the USS Santa Fe
David Marquet & Steven Covey aboard the USS Santa Fe