Monday, April 19, 2010

CEOs like Ship Captains

In a book club I'm part of, we recently read "Master and Commander." As a follow up to the read, we decided to visit a local historic ship to really make the story come to life. In the captain's quarters there was the below passage; an excerpt from "Ocean Life in the Old Ship Sailing Days" by Captn. John D. Widden.

One of my initial reactions to this passage is how appropriately it also describes leaders and CEOs. It is true that while a good captain will rely upon advice and information from his crew, decisions concerning the ship are ultimately his and he owns the glory of success as much as the blame for failure.

"A captain's position on shipboard at sea is a peculiar one. He is something like the mainspring of a watch. If that is all right, the works will do their duty, and all is well, but let the mainspring break, or anything happen to it, and everything goes wrong, or stops. So the captain, as the mainspring, in order to keep perfect discipline, which is so essential , to a well-regulated ship, must first discipline himself. He is thrown on his own resources. All on board, except himself, have companions; the crew have each other to talk with and confide their feelings to;
the cook and steward fraternize; the first and second officers can confer, or even talk amicably together, although in this case, the first officer, if he knows his
business, will preserve the line between the dignity of his position and undue familiarity, that in some instances is apt to be taken advantage of by the second. The captain, if he has no companion, stands alone, isolated, in a certain measure, from all on board."

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