The blog ofJonathan Pepin

From Leader-Follower to Leader-Leader


I recently read Turn The Ship Around, an incredible book about how to give your team control instead of taking it, and creating leaders instead of followers. Here are my notes.

What it's all about

The main idea is going from a classic "Leader-Follower" management style to a "Leader-Leader" style; The reason is that followers turn into passive team members, that follow rules and become powerless without their Leader. Turning everyone into leader of their own role turns them into fully engaged individuals assuming responsibility of everything they do.

Empowerement doesn't mean allowing people to make decisions, it's about giving them all the tools available to be able to make those decisions.

People require deep knowledge and technical skills to be able to be empowered.

Leader-Leader avoids the "Hero Leader", where everything falls apart once they leave. As a leader, you need to build for the long term, after you've left.

Doesn't matter how smart a plan is if the team can't execute it.

Give specific goals, don't tell how to achieve them.

Being a leader means you care about the people and the mission. You need to stop caring about your personal consequences.

Focus on the people, not on the tech.

Be curious. Ask a lot of questions, not to check wether invidivuals know the answers, but to make sure you know.

Keep accountability. Release control of decisions.

Aim to achieve excellence, don't just try to avoid mistakes.


To be able to successfully achieve this, you need to provide 3 main pillars; Control, Competence and Clarity.


Control is about making decisions. How we do things, and towards what end.

Divest it to the team.

Don't move information to authority, move authority to the information. That's how you give control.

Use "I intend to..." to turn passive followers into leaders, who own their actions.

Resist the urge to provide solutions. Eliminate top-down minitoring systems.

Trust is about believing that if a solution is offered, it is actually believed it's the best solution. Not about the solution actually being the best or not.

Think out loud to over-communicate your intentions. This ensures information flows and gives opportunity to peers to correct you.


With increased responsibily to make decisions, you need competence and understanding to know which decision to make.

There is a big difference between learning and training. Training implies passivity, whereas learning forces you to be active.

Don't brief people, because it makes people passively listen to your briefing. Certify them. Make them learn, then ask question to certify they know. This way, they turn into active learners.

Specify goals to achieve, not methods to use. Let people learn and figure out how to achieve those goals.


As decision making is pushed down the chain, it is important that the organization knows what it is all about.

Build trust and build your people (growth).

This doesn't mean protect them from the consequences of their actions. It mean give them tools to achieve their goals both at work and in their personal life.

Use your legacy to inspire the team.

Talk about what the organization has achieved in the past and how it was successful.

Cultural values == guiding principles.

Those should be used as guides and help make decisions.

Immediate recognition is important to allow clarity on what behavior is good.

Begin with the end in mind, by thinking long term and setting measurable goals.


This book is all about building a active, independant team able to achieve excellence by itself, without needing guidance. You achieve this by giving clarity, pushing decision making down the chain and ensuring people have the competence required for it.

As a leader, you are being successful when the team doesn't need you anymore.