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Edition 64 – The Captain of the Ship

In February, whilst Trish and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary, we were fortunate to cruise the Caribbean for 7 nights. It was a nice break in between a 3 Day Conference in Dallas, Texas and meeting with my International Mentoring Group in Carmel, California.

This was the second time that we had cruised with this particular cruise line. The first time was a fabulous experience and we vowed to do it all over again. This time, however, the experience was different. And I’d put it down to one thing – the captain of the ship.

You see, this captain was into being the life of the party. The jovial throwaway line when we attended the compulsory muster drill prior to leaving Fort Lauderdale in Florida brought a few laughs from the passengers. I too smiled, though I also raised an eyebrow.

Throughout the course of the cruise, a few jovial comments were made when he gave his regular, daily update. I distinctly got the impression that this captain was into being liked. It was important to him and to his ego the guests and staff saw him as approachable, friendly and a bit of a card.

Not me! As the week wore on, I noticed a number of things that weren’t quite right on the ship. Floors not cleaned quickly enough. Very slow food service in the main dining room at night. Food served lukewarm at best. Glasses and plates in the outdoor areas for more than an hour. Staff chitchatting to each other rather than looking after guests.

The way I see it, the organisation always mirrors the style of leadership. If you are a fun loving kind of leader, then your team will see it is OK to also be fun loving. They’ll like you and, to you, that’s all that matters.

On the other hand, if you are fair but firm in your leadership style, you will have a team that respects you for the decisions that you make. They may not always agree with you, but they fall into line because they are looking to you for direction.

Now, when you are on a cruise ship, I’m not looking for a fun loving kind of captain. The last fun loving captain the world knew was having too much fun taking his cruise ship too close to shore in the Mediterranean whilst trying to impress a young lady on board. That bit of fun cost the cruise line more than $1 billion, and more than 30 people their lives.

Similarly, in family business, the businesses that I observe where leadership is firm, but fair, are generally the more successful ones as opposed to those where the fun loving types are at the helm. Sometimes the fun loving types are having too much fun to see the cliff they are heading for.

In the same vain, the consensus types are, by and large, not necessarily at the helm of successful family businesses. Consensus types only make a decision once they have consulted all and sundry in the business – by which time, the opportunity could have passed them by, or the threat completely engulfed them.

So, which management style are you?

  1. Fun Loving.
  2. Firm but fair.
  3. Consensus.

And, how is your business travelling?

This Week’s Tip

In 1984, the doyen of Australian television, Bert Newton, interviewed former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and asked him whether he preferred to be liked or respected. Big Mal responded immediately and emphatically with “respected”. I’m with him.