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Home > Crew Matters > How to be a better leader on-board your yacht

How to be a better leader on-board your yacht


Most of us would have experienced both great leadership and poor leadership at some point in our careers. What I have learnt is that it is not easy being a great leader –  it requires an intricate tapestry of soft skills and a deep understanding of self. Having all the tickets/certificates behind you does not qualify you to be an exceptional leader nor does it automatically command respect.

In most management courses, you’ll learn a lot of leadership theories and styles. While it’s important to understand the theory, it’s just as important to develop your own leadership style based on your unique strengths and talents.

And this is exactly what we do in the Advanced Accredited Leadership course.

Having worked under poor leadership as well as having observed it play out within our industry, this experience was essentially the catalyst for me in developing a course that can guarantee optimal leadership performance. If we can teach leaders how to inspire greatness, not only will we have positive role models, we’ll also have a more engaged, productive and satisfied workforce.

Crew in leadership positions (aka Heads of Departments) should always be open to receiving feedback from their peers should they want to strive to become better leaders. One shouldn’t command respect because of their rank; you receive respect through your ability to demonstrate self-awareness, empathy and an ability to listen.

Our advanced leadership Course provides our students with the skills to become a leader who has the emotional agility to manage difficult situations with grace and intelligence. Through equipping crew with these skills will help pave the way for more authentic, positive leadership within the industry.

If you are currently in a leadership position and want to excel in your position or if you are transitioning into a leadership role or even if you have career ambitions to climb the ranks. This article will be invaluable for you.

Self-awareness helps individuals gain a powerful understanding of their strengths and how they can strengthen their areas for development. This in turn builds confidence and helps with further developing soft skills.

Recently, I asked one of my students from the Leadership course what she has gained from the course so far. She asserted that she has found great benefit in working through the feedback module as she was able to access previous colleagues and current work colleagues’ opinions on how they perceive her in a leadership role. She added that the module brought her a newfound sense of confidence and highlighted what she could improve on as a leader.

Johari’s window and SWOT are two feedback tools we use in the course to help our students further develop their self-awareness and fine-tune their skillset.

The following exercise can be confronting and uncomfortable, however, it is necessary if you are wanting to be a respected transformational leader. Often we shy away from asking for feedback in fear of the feedback being something we don’t want to hear. If we choose to be ignorant of our areas for development as leaders then we are not only failing as leaders but run the risk of severely impacting crew morale, productivity, retention and ultimately our reputation.

Bear in mind when asking for feedback these are other people’s perceptions of you based on their observations and experiences; it is up to us to determine whether there is any truth to their comments.

When collect data relating to your data gathering it is helpful to organise the information in Johari’s Window or SWOT. For the purpose of the exercise, I will run through Johari’s window.

Johari’s window consists of 4 core areas:

  1. Open area:

What you know about you and what other’s know about you. (For example, You know that you are able to stay calm in stressful situations and others know this of you too).

I want you to take a moment to think about some of the positive and negative traits that you have, that has also been previously validated by your peers.

  1. Blind Area

These are things that you don’t know about yourself, but OTHERS know about you.  Personally, I see feedback as a gift, it should be regarded as your stepping stone to success. Feedback generally doesn’t come by very often so taking the initiative and asking for feedback gives you an opportunity to either learn something new about yourself, validate something you have been feeling or thinking or make you aware of a behaviour that has been unhelpful or helpful.

  1. Hidden Area – This is what you know about yourself, but others don’t know. It could be imposter syndrome or it could be an insecurity or fear you may have that you don’t want other’s to see.
  2. Unknown Area: This is what is unknown about you and also unknown about others.

This is usually to do with subconscious fears, limiting beliefs or reoccurring patterns that are holding you back. This area will not be discovered through your feedback enquiry but rather through the work you do through a coach or counsellor.

Right, let’s get to the crunch!

Tips on asking for feedback:

Step 1: Timing

Take feedback seriously, it is golden. The way in which you approach people for feedback must be taken into account. Respectfully ask whether they would be willing to give of their time to help you out with the exercise. Ask them whether they would prefer to have a chat or if they are busy,  to complete an online feedback form. ( google form is a great tool for this if you are asking a group of people and an added benefit is that you have the option of keeping the respondents’ answers anonymous)

Step 2: Appropriate questions

Ask yourself what outcome am I hoping to gain as a result of asking for feedback then carefully select specific questions that can help with giving you more information or

Step 3: Questioning style

Use the open-ended style of questioning so that you can elicit as much information as possible.

Examples of questioning:

  1. What traits do you admire in a leader?
  2. What attributes do you appreciate in my leadership style or as a crew member?
  3. How can I better support you?
  4. What are your current frustrations relating to your job?
  5. How do you think I handle difficult situations?
  6. How would you rate my communication skills on a scale of 1 -10 ( 1 being extremely poor and 10 being excellent)  Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve my communication skills.
  7. How do you think I manage the team under high-pressured situations?
  8. What do you appreciate about my leadership style, what don’t you appreciate about my leadership style?

No matter what your position is onboard, from Stew to Chief Stew, from Deckhand to Captain, you should be engaging in self-reflection on a regular basis and asking for feedback when appropriate. Developing yourself as a leader takes time and hard work and is an ongoing journey. If you are open to receiving feedback and I have no doubt you will become a well-respected leader.

If you are ready to enhance your leadership skills and join us on the next Advanced Leadership Course starting on the 11th of October email Karine at karine@thecrewcoach.com

Read more CREW MATTERS articles here!