Lessons from Captain Bligh

Toastmasters conference this past Saturday, and one of the presentations was on the lessons we could learn about leadership from Captain Bligh. Yes, that Captain Bligh of infamous “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame. It turns out that Bligh was actually a fairly nice guy who had some fairly radical and ahead of their time ideas about leading a crew of sailors in the late 1700s. Unfortunately, Bligh did a few things that pretty well messed things up and resulted in the mutiny. The major things that I took from the presentation were: 1. Consistency – if you start off a certain way that is working – keep doing it. When the ship reached Tahiti, Bligh stopped doing the standard military drills that had kept his crew sharp during the voyage. This resulted in a massive breakdown of discipline which started the crew down the path to mutiny. 2. If you screw up, take the responsibility and fix it – get back on the path you were on or find a new more workable path. Once the ship left Tahiti and headed back for Britian, the crew (possibly understandably) began to resent having to be back on the ship, and doing the drills that they had not been doing for the last few months. Instead of rallying the troops so to speak, Bligh castigated and criticized them – including officers and those in front of their men! Bligh had screwed up – he had let discipline get lax – and instead of taking the responsibility for it, he took it out on the men for acting like… well like people who had just had a 3 month vacation in Tahiti. While most of us don’t need to worry about being put out to sea in an small open boat, we can see disastrous effects in our businesses or departments we run if we, like Bligh don’t act consistently and work to take responsibility and corrective action when we make a mistake. Our jobs, our company(!), could be at stake, certainly the trust and cooperation we have worked to build up with our people. Thanks to Gary Mull, International Director for Toastmasters International for a fantastic presentation.]]>

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