Captain D. Michael Abrashoff was so young when he started leading people, one could say that he was a born leader, but what he has been is a dedicated, selfless, competitive and good listener leader. While at the Naval Academy he realized the one variable is to guide his crew to work as a team. Regardless of the circumstances brought on by work, family or neighbors, we control our own destiny. That was his thinking when he was assigned to command one of the lowest rated naval ships in the U.S., the USS Benfold destroyer; Captain Abrashoff was very clear in taking responsibility of his actions in order to build something greater than himself for the team. His leadership style is one of collaboration and communication with everyone in his team. He provided training for his sailors and listen to their grievances; he paid attention to their ideas and listen to their better ways to improve the team. As a competitive man, he wanted his team to be the best by working together, he gave his team responsibility and allowed them to lead even if they were the lowest ranking member on the ship.
After every action review, members of a team would listen to one another and voice their mishaps and learn from another. Self-accountability for everyone helped them rise to the top in their ranking. Last year I met a Cherise Lakeside, FCSI, CDT, she is a professional in the Construction Industry specializing in Specification Writing for RDH Building Science. I believe she is a unique individual with a desire to help as many people as possible and to teach all there is about specification writing. I had already taken and passed the Construction Technology Exam when I took her preparation course online, but I had heard so many good stories about her knowledge that I thought I should take the class anyway. She was brilliant, helpful, open-minded, communicative, selfless and trusting. Her brilliance needs to be shared in a bigger platform. I hope that this gives a little light to a woman in construction and how brilliant she is just as Captain Abrashoff.
It is obvious that Captain Abrashoff leadership style has all the traits discussed by Lloyd Fickett and Jason Fickett in their book The Collaborative Way. He looked at his crew and decided that the collective intelligence of a group of people is better than the intelligence of only one individual. He used the Speaking Straight recommendation by Fickett to engage the sailors and it had a positive effect because he trusted the individuals in his ship. Such trust allowed for individuals to challenge one another and learn from each other. Talking Straight and honestly as well as listening to others in the team would open the team to express their challenges and fears. This is something that Cherise and Captain Abrashoff have in common. During the online class, half of the class was in a physical classroom with her in Portland, Oregon and half of us were learning online because we could not be physically in her classroom. We had technical glitches that at times were frustrating, but Cherise would just calmly express her process and allow us to walk through the difficulties with her. She allowed others to provide input on what to do and how to improve the lecture so we could all contribute to the class and feel part of the class even though we were not in Portland.
Cherise is a CSI Fellow, received the highest achievement with Construction Specification Institute because of her work and dedication to the industry. She was trained as a Specifications Writer for 22 years and her mentors gave her opportunities to grow in the difficult field of construction. Women have had a hard time entering the construction industry but her positive attitude, hard work, integrity and selflessness have given her a place in the industry. I admire her belief that we have “advocates”, people who look after us to grow and become better professionals in the construction industry. I characterize both Captain Abrashoff and Cherise Lakeside as people with a growth mindset as Carol Dweck explained in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts”. They both have taken appropriate risks even though the outcome might lead to failure. It is not about the failure itself but about how they bounce back from that failure if it occurs. Both have accepted to learn from the criticism of others, even when it might be difficult to hear. They both go into a team as open listeners who want to learn from their team members. Both are advocates/mentors themselves of others and they encourage their success by helping without getting the recognition for them. Both believe that it takes communication and to listen aggressively in order to help others develop their own skills in leadership. Both, when they were young, had the courage to not let fear stand in their way of their beliefs. Both are believers that even people of a high status should be able to be helpful and collaborative to others regardless of their hierarchical status. Charise believes: “It is an equal seat at the table, you can learn as much from me as I can learn from you” one of her mottos when it comes to collaborating with others or when mentoring individuals. Just because an individual has the most experience doesn’t mean that the younger generation or others are not savvier in other aspects of the industry.
Another common trait both leaders have is the Acknowledgment and Appreciation practice of others. Such practice goes to the root of people’s connection with one other. When we practice appreciation, people tend to grow even more in a team, their successes and efforts become part of the team. Both leaders have appreciated countless of individuals in their professional career that it makes it clear why they have been successful themselves. Both could be seeing as Influencer Leaders because of their extroverted and talkative nature. When I took classes from Charise she gave me energy because she was enthusiastic and engaging when teaching the classes for CDT. She is open, relationship driven, and people oriented. In my opinion there are few people like her who devote endless hours for the better of her community. Her community extends to all of United States and some of Canada. Her forum is bigger than she even believes. Part of her growth as a leader in the industry has been because her leadership style is to communicate and inform the listener. She is also open to learning new things and ways to improve the industry, just like Captain Abrashoff, she believes that individuals have a lot to offer if given the opportunity.
Both leaders aim at perfection, use facts, data and history to provide information to their listeners. They both are people driven and have tremendous verbal skills. I believe Cherise needs to write a book about her journey in the construction industry and her impact to the thousands of students she has reached and contributed for a better place, especially for women. Both leaders have taken risks, although maybe this is one trait where they might be different. From reading Captain Abrashoff book, It’s your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, he probably has a greater risk threshold, after all he commanded a destroyer ship. The construction industry can be dangerous too, but with all the safety precautions needed to visit a job site, I doubt Cherise has put herself in the way of physical risks. Knowing her professional career I assume she has been less risky.
All in all, I have found both leaders to be exceptional role models in their own industry. Their styles of open communication have overcome many of the dysfunction of other leaders, their trust has enabled them to create a loyal following who admires them not for what they have done but for what they offer to their communities and industries. Both are committed to the younger professional or the professional who is hungry for advice and wants responsibility to be a better team leader. Patrick Lencioni mentions “We have a strong and natural tendency to look out for ourselves before others, even when those others are part of our families and our teams.” This is self-preservation, but if a team is formed with a strong foundation, TRUST as the main ingredient, that team can rise to any occasion to defend the team first. I believe that both Captain Abrashoff and Cherise Lakeside, FCSI are the kind of people one wants in a team. Not just because of their leadership styles but because they desire to have others take command of the ship. They both believe that individuals need to be trusted, need to be accountable of their own actions, need to take calculated and smart risks and build up teams to generate unity and loyalty. Above all, be there for the team and not the self. This last sentence reminds me of the attitude President-Elect Joe Biden, when he said: “I will govern as an American President, I’ll work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did” and his other quote “America has called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time. The battle to control the virus, the battle to build prosperity, the battle to secure your family’s health care. The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country. And the battle to save our planet by getting climate under control. The battle to restore decency, defend democracy and give everybody in this country a fair shot. That’s all they’re asking for. A fair shot.” He will be a leader who is interested in uniting the country just as Captain Abrashoff and Cherise Lakeside, FCSI have been doing during their professional life, uniting people for the improvement of the whole team and not themselves.
You can learn about Leadership from Captain Abrashoff at https://www.mikeabrashoff.com/
You can find Cherise Lakeside, FCSI, CDT in Portland, Oregon
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