Woodruff, G. (2013). A sailor looks at leadership. The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, 6(1), 91-92.
A Sailor Looks at Leadership
By Deering, Randy
Oldsmar, FL: Digital Publishing of Florida, 2012 (Kindle e-book) 5.00
Reviewed by Garth Woodruff
Randy Deering applies leadership principles from his sailing experience to business, and other areas of every day life, in this easy to read book on leadership. Sailing seems to take second seat in his fast moving cover of leadership: styles, dos and don’ts. It’s a fairly comprehensive overview of leadership methods and styles, which feels like a fast-pasted ride through the history of one-liners. He fills the pages with positive, simple, concise theories supported by quotes and data. For instance in chapter 3 – Charting Your Course (knowing where you’re going…and why!) he starts with “someone has wisely quipped, ‘If you don’t know where your going, you’ll probably wind up some place else’” (489). And, “There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-rang success then an attractive, worthwhile, achievable vision for the future, widely shared - Burt Nanus” (495). Then again after depositing some thoughtful insights before leaving the page he follows with an inscription chiseled in the walls of a Sussex church “A vision with out a task is just a dream, A task without a vision is drudgery, But a vision and a task is the hope of the world” (512). Deering defiantly simplifies yet supports a life journey of leadership.
The section on teamwork starts with a quote and dialogue from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and then Henry Ford where Deering interjects a number of thoughtful comments. “Henry Ford Said, ‘Don’t find fault, find a remedy.’ Problems either stop us or stretch us. We can see obstacles or we can see objectives. You can see solutions in every challenge or a problem in every situation” (669). With in almost every theory or point he interjects some good homespun thought. His thought is obviously based on years of experience and comes from an educated mind. All aspects of leadership seem to be covered: team building, top down leadership, values, building trust and running a happy ship... That’s his trick! Just like I slipped in running a happy ship Deering twists his personal experiences of sailing and life into topics to frame all of these principles. He even takes shots at what a leader needs personally, like “keeping in shape physically and mentally” (1640), stress management and seeking sanctuary.
Matthew 8:23 reads, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” Christ was more then a preacher, healer and savior. From this short simple quote we learn he was a sailor and a leader too. ‘A Sailor Looks at Leadership’ takes many of the same lessons Christ would know through the simple life of one who lived by the sea and helps put them into modern word. Deering a theologian himself, with a Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry, has a tendency to treat the connection of leadership and Christianity as assumed until he reaches the last section of the last chapter. “Reputation is who people say you are, character is who you really are. The famous preacher D. L. Moody said, ‘Character is what you are in the dark when nobody is looking’” (1882). He then follows with a short dialog regarding character not charisma and finally wrapping up with his “not Rick Warren’s: Ten Commandments for Leadership” (1882).
‘A Sailor Looks at Leadership’ can be viewed from two different approaches. One would be that it’s a book for someone new to the theory of leadership. It’s a book that gives a general overview in a non-threatening tone to introduce a reader to a very complex set of topics. The second point of view is more my perspective. It is a nice review of deeply studied theories given a lighter coating coupled with copious illustration and quotes that add to the foundation and understanding of these theories. Seldom do you find a book in such a complex field not only making an attempt to simplify concepts but succeeding. All this make it an ‘easy read’.