Home » How Great Leaders Serve Others: David Marquet (Transcript)

How Great Leaders Serve Others: David Marquet (Transcript)

Dave Adams is a submariner. He was a weapons officer on the USS Santa Fe. He’s standing there with children of the Mondo’s eye tribe. This is a celebration because the Mondo’s eye… they’re standing on a 100 meter wide body there.

And the Mondo’s eye don’t have a CAD cam programs, they don’t have concrete, they don’t have re-bar, they don’t have structural engineers, but they do have a desire for human interaction.

And so the villages on other side of this Wadi interact. And they build a bridge every year and the rains come and wash it away. And last year there were two children on the bridge when it got washed away and they were lost.

This is their new bridge. Yeah. This is Caleb Kerr. The one on the right. He’s a PRT of commander for Helmand province on the border of Pakistan. Yes, He’s a submariner. He was the operations officer in the USS Santa Fe.

Why are we sending submariners to the mountains of Afghanistan?

Crazy? No. they got this done by giving control. Dave Adams didn’t provide…One of the problems, building a bridge was the security. He didn’t provide security. Normal, you know, he didn’t take his army guys and say, and “we’re going to do security.”

What he did was he gave that to the two villages. He says, “Hey, you guys want a bridge. You provide security.”

Right now today, Dave Adams and Caleb Kerr are underway on summaries that they are in command of. They are two of the nine officers from that cohort on the USS Santa Fe. They’re currently in command on track to go to command. There’s only 14 officers in the wardroom. 

I did give another order. We were, the submarine was assigned to be in service of a SEAL team. Here, they are coming onto the ship. There, they are going.

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And it’s now three and a half days later, it’s in the middle of the night, we’re on the surface. I’ll stop dead in the water. And the SAELs who we haven’t talked to because communications are potentially interceptable are going to come off the beach in these two Zodiacs to a spot in the ocean.

And we better be there, because you don’t want to be in the ocean Zodiac, not much gas, no submarine. 

And I was, I would wander the ship. I had a mic. I’d listen. First, talked to control, control a main deck, man, direction, drill. I just listened to. And everything’s going great. And all sudden yellow sounding. I ran up to the control room. I looked at the navigation display. I saw something like this. There’s this arrow pointing towards the beach.

And I said, I started thinking. By this, the officer deck had already ordered head one-third. I’m looking at that head- one third… I’m looking at that head one-third… say, “no back.” 

And immediately the quartermaster, one of the junior guys in the boardroom says, “No, captain, you’re wrong.”

What does it take to say to captain you’re wrong?

So I was quiet. I looked at the other indications. What I realized was I’d gotten the direction of motion and the head of the submarine confused. We were actually pointing away and head one-third was the perfect command.

And he said ‘stop’, I’ll stop. And moments later, the seal team arrived.

And when, if they had followed my order, we would have gotten out of position. We might’ve missed them. But I could rest easy because now I had a crew who is trained for critical thinking, not compliance. My work was done. 

The question is, what kind of a leader will you be? Will you be a leader who takes control or later who gives control?

And ultimately being a leader in service to others is the triumph of deliberate action over impulsive reaction. And I believe that the most important person to have control is you.

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Because it’s that sense of self control that “it’s my leadership”, that will allow you to resist the urge to take control from others and instead give control.

And that will be your biggest challenge and your most enduring and powerful success.

Thank you very much.

Resources for Further Reading:

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (Transcript)

How to Break Bad Management Habits Before They Reach the Next Generation of Leaders: Elizabeth Lyle (Transcript)

Lars Sudmann: Great Leadership Starts With Self-Leadership at TEDxUCLouvain (Transcript)

How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek (Transcript)

Sharing is Kindness in Action!

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