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A deployed nuclear submarine operates alone—hundreds of miles from any support and hundreds of feet below the surface.
An emotionless and indifferent enemy constantly surrounds the crew. Thousands of pounds of sea pressure sit right over their heads, waiting to crush them like a tin can and send them to the bottom of the ocean. Even the most junior sailor’s mistake can result in the submarine’s loss and everyone on it.
To accomplish their mission and return safely home to their families, a submarine crew relies entirely on the actions of their fellow sailors. There is both shared responsibility and vulnerability. Regardless of rank or experience, every sailor is vitally important.
When Jon Rennie reported to the USS Tennessee as a young junior officer, he had no idea what to expect. He didn’t realize he was heading out on a four-year adventure that would change his life and establish leadership principles that he would rely on for decades.
He learned that submarine leadership was a 24/7 commitment. He couldn’t go home at the end of the day or take the weekend off after a rough week. There was no escape from his roles and responsibilities as a leader.
On a submarine crew, officers and sailors work together in cramped spaces and challenging conditions to accomplish complex missions with no room for failure. As Rennie moved into leadership positions in the civilian world, he found that the basic underlying principles for success at sea also led to high-performing teams on land.
Leaders succeed when they create a unified team with a singular mission—when every employee performs like they are all in the same boat.