LEADERSHIP: THE CAPTAIN IS NEVER WRONG


Leadership is the final skill is attainable through employment – if you want it. The problem is you have to want it. If one wants a management job, one generally has to apply for it. By contrast, leaders grow into the job by taking on responsibility and inspiring others to do so as well.

My old man was a tug boat captain. He was responsible for the command of a ship that was all engine. There was only room aboard for five crewmembers.  He never applied for the position. He came up through the ranks. He began as a deck hand, then a second mate, then a first mate, then a captain.

“I could never figure out how he did it.” said his first mate at the old man’s funeral. He was talking about his skill at docking the boat regarded as a critical part of seamanship.  A mistake could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in dock and hull repair. “He took the walkie-talkie and scampered to the stern.” The mate continued.  “Then he started telling us to increase or decrease the RPS of either the port or starboard engines. We would just walk the boat in then tie her up. It was like our hands became extensions of his brain.”

“I never could figure out how he did it.” He said.

“You mean he didn’t tell you?” I asked.

“Tell me what?” The mate asked. “You mean there was a trick to it?”

“You could call it that,” I said. “Do you want me to tell you?

“Sure.” He said. “I might want to be a skipper some day.”

As I told the mate, the old man came up through the ranks, just like you did. That means he learned how the boat ‘felt’ when it was running smoothly under command. That means that he knew what the crew felt like when running smoothly under his command. That’s 90% of the work. The 10 % comes from a problem – such as docking.

He could have had all the controls moved to the stern and conducted the whole operation by himself, but he didn’t want to do that. He wanted the crew to be active participants.  “After all,” he used to think to himself, “If the company finds out that the first and second mates were redundant, they wouldn’t have jobs, and if they didn’t have jobs, where on earth would the supply of skippers come from?”

The fact was that he really didn’t have a clue what the changes in RPMs of the engines would do, but he had to do something. He used to start off far enough from the wharf that if he didn’t like the direction the boat was going after he gave his first order; he had time to change it. He just had to do it in such a way that iot didn’t appear he made a mistake, because the captain is never wrong. He might be misinformed, but he’s never wrong.

Therefore, there are three rules of leadership:

  1. If there is a problem, you have the distance from to the wharf to make a remedial decision
  2. You need to involve the crew – not so much to help, but so they can witness leadership
  3. You have to be prepared to take responsibility for your action. If the ship sinks, you need to go down with it.

Mike Broderick , a one- time archaeologist, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor with the Fraser Health Authority in Port Coquitlam where he helps people with mental health disabilities find and keep full or part time employment .

He WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he found employment for people with physical disabilities, A Supported Employment Coordinator at THEO BC (now the Open Door Group), and a case manager at Community Fisheries Development Centre where he helped people move from the fishing industry to something else because there, “Aint no fish.” This means he is VERY familiar with how a modern day resume should look.

He is a newly retired ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a former member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist, is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to Alive Magazine. He is always saying, “If you can’t be fit, you can at least be funny.”

He lives in Port Coquitlam with his spouse Cecelia. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net  or at 604-464-4105. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates.

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One Response to “LEADERSHIP: THE CAPTAIN IS NEVER WRONG”

  1. energywriter Says:

    Great story and lesson in leadership. Thanks, Mike. sd

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