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“It’s Your Ship” a Book by Michael Abrashoff Essay (Book Review)


Leadership is a trait that applies to every field of business, whether it is a private corporation or a governmental structure. Management style often becomes a factor which predicates the level of employees’ efficiency and turnover rates. Technology is very important for development, yet motivation is the primary element that influences performance. Although the book It’s Your Ship by Michael Abrashoff is built around the working process on the US Army Navy vessel, his ideas about leadership can be applied to nursing.

Central Leadership Concepts

A good manager is not the one who controls his or her employees by fear. On the contrary, he or she should motivate workers through leadership techniques that would make them feel satisfied with their job and unwilling to change it despite possible obstacles. Some of the most important leadership concepts that are mentioned in the book are managing by giving an example, describing the purpose of each task, exceeding standard procedures, and improving the employees’ quality of life whenever it is an option.

Leading through Example

Managers greatly affect their subordinates. They can set the community’s mood by pressing charges for poor results or by allowing it to have more personal time whenever it is possible. Leaders do not usually recognize the impact they have on their employees. However, this is a very important part of their job. For instance, workers often replicate the attitude towards work from their boss. If he or she takes all the tasks seriously, the same approach will be taken by everyone else.

Ordering people what to do is not always the most effective strategy to take. Of course, in structures like the Navy orders are an essential part of everyday functioning. However, the result of each command execution is directly associated with the level of trust and respect. While a leader is a good example of a professional, his or her subordinates are more likely to execute orders to reach the level of this person. A leader is not something one becomes by default when putting in a corresponding position. It takes a lot of psychological work to create a portrait that would be appealing to employees.

Describing a Purpose

It is a common situation when managers ask their employees to perform tasks without explaining the purpose. As a result, many actions are far from being ideal or even close to the initial vision of a management team. When people do not understand what they are doing certain things for, they are likely to act nominatively. No initiative or a wish for improvement can be expected in such a case since people are confused about the direction they are heading.

A good leader will make the purpose of each task clear. This is advantageous for at least two reasons that can bring benefits in the form of improved results. Firstly, people who understand their importance for executing a particular command feel more valued and put more effort as a result. Secondly, when a manager communicates the final goal of each command, employees see the bigger picture of each project. This gives them an ability to analyze the whole task and propose various ways to improve a plan if they see any weak sides of it.

Exceeding Standard Procedures

Following standard procedures has its advantages. Rules regarding each process are tested over time and will bring expected results if applied correctly. However, following standard ways of doing things is not an option when a company seeks for development. Rules often do not leave much space for new initiatives that could positively impact the outcomes. Of course, there is always a portion of risk when stepping away from well-known guidelines. However, there is always a place for improvement, and imagination plays a great role in it.

Usually, motivated employees are willing to try different options for performing tasks. If a leader is effective, he or she will allow this to happen. In another case, workers become less interested in their functions over time due to the lack of support and understanding of their initiatives from management. This situation can lead to adverse outcomes like poor performance and decisions that do not correspond to the current market situation anymore.

Employees’ Quality of Life

Finally, a good leader is the one who is interested in the quality of employees’ lives. It is not a secret that modern technology has made workers accessible for their managers almost all the time. Some types of jobs require the employee’s presence on demand. In such conditions, it becomes very important for leaders to create a working environment that would make people welcomed and encourage them to have fun and be proud of their job.

Creating a corporate culture is something every leader should pay attention to for getting the top performance from subordinates. Initiatives such as tasty meals, playtime, or other ways of having fun make people less stressed about their daily duties. Moreover, there is a certain benefit in having workers be proud of their place of employment since it draws attention to a company and results in a higher number of clients and employees.

Leadership Qualities Applicable to Nursing

Nursing is a very demanding job that calls for a very high level of compassion and advocacy. Patients often feel insecure since their health state does not allow them to perform regular duties. They may even lose certain financial stability. That is why the health care industry requires nurses to be leaders that patients could listen to without questioning the quality or necessity of procedures. What is more important is the impact that nursing leaders have on their subordinates. They are responsible for shaping the corporate culture in a clinic where every nursing staff member would be valued and satisfied. Examples in the book described above can be applied to describing the importance of leadership in a hospital setting.

It is a fact that nursing is a field with high turnover rates. Health care professionals are often dissatisfied with the level of payment they receive in the workplace. While the nursing job is very demanding, it is usually not paid as much as the doctors’ duties. Moreover, the lack of workforce causes hospital managers to make nurses work extra hours. Stress and burning out are typical in this field. However, nursing leaders could improve the situation by showing an example themselves. For instance, they too can stay long hours to help nurses manage their duties. This would cause a positive response from nurses since they would feel valued.

Another leadership quality that can be exercised in this industry is based on explaining the purpose of each task. Nursing leaders should not just give orders to personnel. They have to make sure every participant of the process understands what all the actions are targeted at, and what outcomes are expected in the end. Besides, reasoning orders help to create a culture where everyone understands the hospital’s values.

Finally, working with people often requires actions that go beyond standard procedures. Nursing leaders should encourage their staff to do whatever it takes to satisfy the needs of patients. While complying with rules is important, a certain amount of initiative must be present. This is a direct outcome of motivation, which is also heavily influenced by nursing leaders.

Literature Review

Many studies are discussing the role of leadership in nursing practice. Researchers agree that administrators with strong leadership skills can produce valuable changes in the working community. Below is a discussion of two articles that identify these changes and offer a discussion for the further implementation of this concept in the nursing practice.

Transformational Leadership

As it was mentioned above, nursing leaders can motivate personnel and ensure everyone is a part of a common culture of values. The article by Ross, Fitzpatrick, Click, Krouse, and Clavelle (2014) describes the effect of transformational leadership that was studied in several hospitals across the country. The design was made to collect demographic data along with the impact that nurses believed they had on their subordinates. The former value showed that the majority of nursing leaders consisted of females who had a graduate degree and professional certification. The primary practices in the scope of transformational leadership were enabling action and encouraging. (Ross et al., 2014, p. 204). The first concept was mainly identified by ensuring that everyone could perform fundamental duties and to support each other. Nursing leaders are responsible for creating an environment where every staff member would feel competent and secure about reaching common goals. Encouraging the heart has a target of recognizing individual and team achievements. It is the task of a nursing leader to create a community where all accomplishments would be noticed and valued.

Returning to the book by Abrashoff, it is easy to notice the overlapping of the concepts of motivation and leading by example. Transformational leadership is based on showing the example of respect and taking action, that helps others to see the company’s vision, primary objectives, and the means of reaching full potential. Nursing leaders should not give direct orders but rather act in a way they would like their subordinates to perform their duties.

Leadership and Patient Outcomes

Several studies claim that leadership in the nursing field helps to not only increase the level of motivation among staff but also improve the customer experience. Patient outcomes are one of the quality measures that define health care services. The article suggests that effective leadership helps to improve such factors as patient satisfaction, decrease in mortality rate, improper use of medication, and controlling internal infections (Wong, Cummings, & Ducharme, 2013, p. 709). The study identifies two leadership styles that are either relational or task-oriented. The former is based on managing relations between all participants of each process and creating an environment that ensures the psychological comfort of employees. The second leadership style focuses specifically on tasks that need to be executed as a part of daily procedures.

While it is important to control the quality of nurses’ work, it is crucial to maintain a safe and rewarding environment. This concept overlaps with the idea from Abrashoff’s book that good leaders have to be interested in keeping their subordinates satisfied with working conditions. The study suggests that the process of creating comfortable conditions for nurses results in their motivation to perform better. Thus, nursing leaders who support their staff both psychologically and by offering a rewarding environment serve as a base for improving patient outcomes.

Implications for Practice

All the concepts stated above can be used in my future practice as a nursing leader. I am familiar with the most pressing issues that are now persistent in our health care system. Understanding the benefits that could be achieved through smart leadership approach is the core element of bringing value to a health care facility. I believe that most nurses understand the importance of actions, thus my primary focus would be on the environment.

Tackling Turnover

As it was mentioned earlier, nurses work in very demanding conditions, yet the benefits do not seem to cover the stress of the job. I believe that it would be very hard to change the system of wages in the nursing field since it requires efforts from the government. However, I can help to create a rewarding environment inside a health care facility. For instance, employees do not only wish to receive benefits like salary or promotion potential. The Equity theory states that workers seek fair conditions regarding them and their colleagues. It would be challenging to know that someone else is receiving more money for doing less work. I can help nurses understand that I support their efforts by taking up the same amount of work. This would serve as a base for respecting management that does not delegate duties to tired nurses and help to ease the pressure put on the health care staff associated with working extra hours.

Understanding the Process

Explaining the purpose of each task would also be an essential part of my work with both nurses and patients. It is important to let patients know why I need to perform a certain procedure. Sometimes it would require me to communicate with patients’ families to insist on a particular type of treatment. While this step requires a lot of communication skills, it also proves that I understand the core framework of what I am doing instead of just following the rules.

Compliance with regulations would also be something that I would encourage nurses to have. However, I should talk to them regularly to find out whether they are performing procedures with a deep understanding of outcomes, or is it just a blind following of guidelines. For instance, if there is a patient who is mentally incompetent and relatives do not want to take any action due to an old wish of this person, a nurse must decide on whether to agree with them and let him or her die. I find it important that nurses understand the ethical background of their decisions. I will encourage them to exceed standard procedures by offering initiatives other than described in guidelines. This case could be solved in the court, and I would wish the nurses I manage to recognize the importance of putting a patient’s wellbeing above standard procedures.


Ross, E. J., Fitzpatrick, J. J., Click, E. R., Krouse, H. J., & Clavelle, J. P. (2014). Transformational leadership practices of nurse leaders in professional nursing associations. The Journal of Nursing Administration, 44(4), 201-206.

Wong, C. A., Cummings, G. G., & Ducharme, L. (2013). The relationship between nursing leadership and patient outcomes: A systematic review update. Journal of Nursing Management, 21, 709-724.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 13). "It’s Your Ship" a Book by Michael Abrashoff. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/its-your-ship-a-book-by-michael-abrashoff/

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""It’s Your Ship" a Book by Michael Abrashoff." IvyPanda, 13 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/its-your-ship-a-book-by-michael-abrashoff/.

1. IvyPanda. ""It’s Your Ship" a Book by Michael Abrashoff." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/its-your-ship-a-book-by-michael-abrashoff/.


IvyPanda. ""It’s Your Ship" a Book by Michael Abrashoff." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/its-your-ship-a-book-by-michael-abrashoff/.


IvyPanda. 2020. ""It’s Your Ship" a Book by Michael Abrashoff." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/its-your-ship-a-book-by-michael-abrashoff/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '"It’s Your Ship" a Book by Michael Abrashoff'. 13 September.

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