At the age of 36, Mike Abrashoff was selected to become captain of U.S.S. Benfold, at the time he was the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet. The challenges were staggering with exceptionally low morale and poor performance results.
Few thought that this ship could improve, but Mike only became more resolved. By instilling a sense of urgency and by creating an atmosphere of commitment to excellence, Benfold became the best ship in the Pacific Fleet.
"A lot of people do whatever it takes to secure the next promotion. All I ever wanted to do in the navy was to command a ship. I did not care if I ever got promoted again. And that attitude enabled me to focus solely on results instead of doing the right things for my career. Along the way, it was my people that created the results that ensured my next promotion.”
The solution was a system of beliefs that Mike calls GrassRoots Leadership. A process of replacing command and control with commitment and cohesion, by engaging the hearts, minds, and loyalties of workers—a belief that Mike achieves with conviction and humility. "The most important thing that a captain can do is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew.” This meant interviewing every single person on his ship, from the most senior officer to the lowest recruit. It was an experience that began to generate invaluable ideas, often from unexpected sources.
GrassRoots leadership is a principle that inspires every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence. "It’s your ship,” Mike was known to say. To this day, his former sailors still remind him of it.
By every measure, these principles were able to achieve breakthrough results. Personnel turnover decreased to an unprecedented 1% and operating expenses were slashed by 25%. The U.S.S. Benfold became regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet, winning the prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness.
Mike’s leadership skills have been honed through a number of challenging roles. Prior to commanding U.S.S. Benfold, Mike served as the military assistant to the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Dr. William J. Perry. In this demanding role, Mike accompanied the Secretary of Defense throughout the world on critical missions of national security.
Mike’s book, It's Your Ship, is a fascinating tale of top-down change for anyone trying to navigate today’s uncertain business seas. The 10th anniversary edition of It’s Your Ship is set for release in the fall of 2012. His next book, Get Your Ship Together, was released in January 2005.
Mike is now an experienced entrepreneur having co-founded a leadership development company called GLS World Wide.
Mike is originally from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and is a 1982 graduate of the Naval Academy of Annapolis.
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