Mike Abrashoff learned about leadership as captain of the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer that he and his crew transformed from a dysfunctional disgrace into the best damn ship in the U.S. Navy. He told that story in a best-selling book, It's Your Ship. Now he's distilling the lessons of that experience, plus what he's learned as a consultant and speaker, into a series of brief, practical guides to effective leadership. This is one of them, and it's about the power of listening.
A leader who hasn't learned to listen is working under a huge handicap. It may be possible to lead without listening, Douglas MacArthur-style, but that approach is twice as hard, half as fast, and prone to disaster. "Even as I rose through the ranks of the Navy, I found that listening didn't always come naturally to me," Abrashoff says. "Often, I merely pretended to hear people. How many times had I barely glanced up from my work when a sailor or officer came up to the bridge or into my cabin? I wasn't paying attention; I was marking time until I could give orders. When I took command of Benfold, I was determined to do things differently - and I had to move fast."