1.8 FOLLOWERSHIP AND LEADERSHIP
The axiom that you must learn to follow before you can lead is as
true on tankers as in the military. An officer's progress from apprentice/seaman
through the ranks to command begins with learning to follow.
By mastering the difficulties of following instructions well, the future
officer will realise the importance of good leadership.
Good followership is intelligent obedience to and implementation of
the orders and instructions of a senior officer. The key word is intelligent.
There may be several ways to accomplish most of the tasks assigned by
the master or chief officer, but one is more economic of time and resources
than others. In addition, a competent officer is constantly reviewing
the priorities of the various duties and tasks calling for his attention
and selecting the most important (at that moment), to receive his immediate
One memorable case which demonstrates a lack of intelligent followership
occurred in New York twenty years ago. The chief officer of a clean
oil tanker had left orders that the forepeak ballast was not to be started
until pumping had commenced on the cargo in the forward cargo tanks.
During the night, the master called the cargo control room to see if
forepeak ballast had been started. The watch officer answered simply
that it had not. The master said to start it immediately. The watch
officer should have explained that the discharge of forward cargo had
not commenced, and that the Captain's instruction was in conflict with
the chief officer's orders. Instead of explaining the hazard the Captain's
order would expose the ship to, the watch officer began ballasting the
forepeak. Two hours later the ship grounded at No.l centre cargo tank
and lost 10,000 barrels of cargo into the harbour.
Good followership includes keeping an officer's superiors and himself,
out of trouble by asking intelligent, timely questions about any confusing
or dangerous instruction or order. It also means listening carefully
to the explanation offered and then proceeding to carry out the instruction
in the best way possible.
Good followership means knowing when to wake up the master or chief
officer to ask their help or guidance. There are few stupid questions
in operating a tanker, but many stupid mistakes made as a result of
failing to seek timely assistance. From time to time we encounter a
master or chief officer who complains about being awakened for a situation
which subsequently turns out to be a non-problem. Such complaints are
the opposite of the appropriate reaction and any officer who objects
to being awakened by a subordinate with a legitimate question is pursuing
the wrong career.
One of the most difficult parts of followership is passing on unpopular
instructions. This should be done without comment by the junior officer
either as to the instruction or its originator. A junior officer is
expected (not to mention being paid), to carry the order out to the
best of his ability with the resources at hand.
Through good followership, officers develop into professional leaders.
Officers should welcome any advice aimed at improving their ability
to follow orders as eagerly as they would seek instruction to develop
other professional skills. By carefully studying the leadership styles
of the effective officers he meets, a tanker officer will gather the
tools to develop his own leadership skills, maturity and self-confidence.
Followership involves cooperation in all aspects of the shipboard working
relationship with the master and chief officer.
If there was one universal leadership technique that everyone could
learn - good leaders would not be as valuable as they are! Many officers
of the old 'theory X', school lead by unwavering, rigorous direction
and control. This technique requires limited imagination, achieves limited
results and takes up a lot of a leader's time that could be more productively
spent on other matters.
In using situational leadership it is useful to
keep in mind that there is no 'one best way1 to influence others.
Rather, any leader behaviour may be more or less effective depending
on the readiness of the person you arc attempting to influence. The
model provides a quick reference to assist in; 1
Diagnosing the level of readiness, 2 Selecting high
probability leadership styles and, 3 Communicating
styles to effectively influence behaviour.
In section 1.7 the need for a subordinate officer
to advise his superiors of his experience and limitations was explained.
This was partly to insure that too much was not expected of him. But
the most important reason for doing this is so that his experience,
maturity, apparent initiative, and ability can be compared to the demands
of his position and the appropriate leadership technique applied to
leading him. This points us to the truth about the one best leadership
technique. There is none. Leadership is the ability to select, from
a range of options the one leadership style that will have the most
favourable result when applied to a particular combination of follower
This ideal method is easier to understand if we agree that the object
of leadership is to get someone to act to achieve a certain result.
If that is true, then we are in a leadership situation whenever we are
paying someone to work for us personally. But we would not think of
dealing with the lawn boy, television repairman or our attorney in the
same way. We would talk to them differently, behave (however subtly)
differently toward them and expect a different level of response from
each. In addition to paying these individuals, we use different 'leadership'
approaches with each. The same must be true of our relationships with
our subordinates on a tanker.
A good leader 'sizes up' the fit of the crew member to the job and then
decides how he will attempt to lead the subordinate toward a better
mastery of his job. Leadership's aim is two-fold: to get the current
job done and, to improve the motivation, abilities and maturity of the
doers. To do this, an officer needs crew members who are ready for development
and if that is not the case, he must convince them that it is in their
best interest to follow his development path. This can only be achieved
if the followers are convinced that their leader has the power to reward
the appropriate behaviour and will unfailingly do so.
1.8.3 Management leadership
A nurturing, creative and cooperative leadership environment cannot
be created on the ship unless it is promoted and practiced between shore
management and the vessel. Management must recognise that improved performance
(reflected mainly in significant reductions in loss ratios), can only
be accomplished by a commitment to human-oriented resource development.