Grassroots Leadership in Action

If you haven’t read Mike Abrashoff’s It’s Your Ship (2002), it’s high time you picked it up. Subtitled “Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy”, this book tells the amazing story of a leader who decides to take a stand for excellence and together with his team, turns around the worst ship in the Pacific Fleet in 20 months. It’s on my list of the 25 best leadership books of all time, and is one of my personal favorites.

Reading almost like a novel, Abrashoff tells stories throughout this practical, hands-on leadership case study. He starts the book by describing the change of command ceremony in which his predecessor was cheered off the ship, causing Abrashoff to make a spur-of-the-moment decision to lead differently, starting that very day. He shares his approach to personally interviewing all 300 sailors aboard the USS Benfold to build 1:1 relationships, how he set an example for servant leadership by getting in the back of the line for meals, and how he recognized and rewarded his crew, making them feel part of something special as they worked together to improve their mastery scores and metrics.

This is truly an inspiring book, filled with real examples of how regular people came together to form a team that was focused, disciplined, and well trained for the challenges they faced. Abrashoff went on to write two other books about his experiences as a Naval Commander (Get Your Ship Together and It’s Our Ship) and writes and speaks on leadership (check out Grassroots Leadership.com).

If you read only one leadership book in the next six months, make it this one. It’s a great primer on how to make everyone around you better, and how to make it all about the team. If you get a gift card this Christmas, use it for this book – you’ll be glad you did!