Reading List: Turn the Ship Around

Several weeks ago I stumbled upon an article on Fast Company’s site about David Marquet’s book Turn the Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level. Marquet is a retired Captain in the Navy, and is best known for engineering the remarkable turn around of the USS Santa Fe. Upon taking over the boat, David became the captain of one of the worst performers in the fleet and was given very clear instructions: turn the ship around.

Over the course of the two and a half years, Marquet changed the entire culture of the Santa Fe, turning it into one of the best ships in the entire fleet. What is even more remarkable is that he did this in a way that flies in the face of the stereotypical military leadership model of leader-follower, implementing a leader-leader strategy that encourages team members at every level of an organization to make decisions and lead where they are.

While some may glance at the cover of the book and cast it aside as a military book with little application to church leadership, Marquet’s book is an excellent resource for those who are trying to increase the level of engagement within their congregation, and reproduce leaders throughout their ministry. One passage in particular has had me thinking long and hard about my leadership:

When the performance of a unit goes down after an officer leaves, it is taken as a sign that he was a good leader… not that he was ineffective in training his people properly.

Instilling a healthy leadership culture while developing an outstanding team should be a priority of everyone in church leadership. I can think of no higher honor in ministry than seeing a church I served with being healthy for years after I have left (not because I left, mind you). I am convinced that this is something that are not only called to do, but are completely able to do… if we are intentional about developing a healthy culture.

After reading Turn the Ship Around, David Marquet and I had a conversation about the book, and about leading healthy organizations. Here is that conversation:

If you can’t tell, I am a fan of this book (I am having one of our Coaching Cohorts read it together), and I believe it could be a fantastic resource for your team… I will even give you a copy! (details below)

Is YOUR church embracing a leader-follower or leader-leader style of leadership?

I have two copies of Turn the Ship Around to give away to Church Thought readers. Want one? Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Leave a comment on this post
  2. Share this post via twitter or facebook.
  3. Promise to review the book on Amazon after you read it.

I will select two winners at random on Sunday, August 19, 2012 at noon eastern.



About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.

  • Caleb

    I was a Department Head for Captain Marquet for a little over a year on USS Santa Fe during the transition era. I had the advantage of reporting to the ship once the transition from worst to first was nearly complete. However, Captain Marquet did not rest on his success. He continued to work to make all of us better leaders. I recall a couple (of many) occasions in which I felt very empowered. The first was when he met me at my hotel. He didn’t even wait for me to check in to the ship. Over a Mai Tai, he discussed the vision for the ship and asked me about my goals and how I thought I should run my new department on his ship. The second was after I had been on the ship for about a month. Even though I was the newest department head, he flew me to San Diego as the sole representative for a Battle Group conference for our upcoming deployment to the Persian Gulf. Most other attendees were Commanding Officers of warships in the Battle Group. I’m encouraged to see Matt embracing the leadership vision from Captain Marquet. As a Christian, many times I have observed an atmosphere in church of “just loving one another” without any concrete direction, leadership, or practical application. I’m currently the Commanding Officer of my own fast attack submarine in Pearl Harbor. I have used Captain Marquet’s techniques to develop leaders on my ship and improve overall ship performance.

    • Matt Steen

      Thanks for sharing this, Caleb! I look forward to reading your book on leading well a few years down the road!

      I would agree with you on your observations within the church… we can use “just love one another” as an excuse to not lead well or, what’s worse, fail to hold one another accountable to standards.

  • Louis David Marquet

    Thanks Matt. Great discussion.
    be well,

    • Matt Steen

      Greatly enjoyed the opportunity! Thank you!

  • Rookie Pastor

    Great job with the interview Matt!

    • Matt Steen


  • The Malphurs Group

    If only more churches would see leadership and leadership development as a priority we would have much less spectator Christianity and more engaged discipleship and missional living.

    • Matt Steen

      I whole-heartedly agree…

  • Gregg Peter Farah

    Matt, thanks for a great resource and awesome interview!

  • David Treloar

    I greatly appreciated the video discussion (great tool, Matt) and want to read the book.

    I appreciated Captain Marquet’s story about the leader who empowered him, but cheered when he committed himself to making others feel the empowerment he once felt. Yet it is apparent that the trust he put in his officers was not based on the “system”, but his careful investment in the lives and leadership of his team.

    I still have much to learn.

    Thanks again!

  • Christian F. Monzon

    Thank you for the incredible post, interview, and the book recommendation. I’m the Communications Director of Abounding Grace Ministries on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Our church has been many through many peaks and valleys. By the grace of God, we are entering into our thirtieth year as a ministry. We find ourselves this year at a very transitional time in the ministry. We are trying to develop a model of ministry that would sustain us for another thirty years and beyond. I will make it a point to add this book to my reading list. Thanks again. One Love in Christ.

    • Matt Steen

      Thanks, Christian! I have a deep love for what you guys are up to, and actually stayed in the youth room of your church back when it was at the bank in the East Village.

  • Lead Well

    Always amazed at the resources Fast Co. puts forth. Thanks for the heads up and review. Well done at getting the interview. Powerful leadership lessons for all. Definitely following you now on Twitter.

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  • Neil

    Can’t wait to read this

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