Captain’s Log: Adventures in Leadership on the High Seas

This is from the “Accounting Makes Cents” podcast episode #40 released on Monday, 22 May 2023.

You may have wondered why I’m talking like a pirate, but I thought I’d put a fun spin to today’s topic. We’re going to be navigating the choppy waters of management and leadership styles – and we’re going to use a boat and its wacky crew as an analogy. So buckle up, put on your life jackets, and let’s set sail!

Jump to show notes.

Picture this: you’re on a boat with a ragtag group of misfits, and you’re trying to steer a course through the stormy seas of business. Everyone on the boat has a role to play, but not everyone is cut out to be captain. Now, let’s take a look at some of the different management and leadership styles you might encounter on this boat ride.

Autocratic leader

First up, we have the autocratic leader. This is the kind of captain who likes to be in control of everything. Yep, he’s the guy who gets to hold on to the steering wheel, even if he doesn’t know where he’s going. He drives the boat and doesn’t listen to inputs from anyone else. While autocratic leaders can be effective in certain situations, such as during a crisis or emergency like if the boat is sinking or goes off course, this style of leadership can also be demotivating and lead to resentment and mutiny as they can make their crew members feel like they’re stuck in the doldrums and can’t make a move without the captain’s say so.

Democratic leader

Next up, we have the democratic leader. This is the boss who likes to get everybody’s input before making a decision – like the skipper who asks the crew which way they think they should go, then takes a vote. Democratic leaders can be great at promoting teamwork and collaboration, but the whole process that they take can be so time consuming. They can get bogged down in endless debates and votes, especially if people are not in 100% agreement. Imagine if a storm came and threw the boat off course, some people would like to jump ship and swim towards safety, and some people would like to stay put and wait for help. Ultimately, the vote results will likely make the decision for the boat and its crew, but because of the urgency of the situation, waiting for the vote to happen could literally put everybody’s life in danger, as opposed to the leader just making that decision in a pinch.

Laissez-faire leader

Then we have the laissez-faire leader. This is the boss who basically lets their crew members do whatever they want. A bit of hands off approach, like the captain who disappears below deck and lets the crew run the ship. In some ways, this is good for crew since the leader gives team members a lot of autonomy and doesn’t interfere much. While this style of leadership can be effective when your crew is experienced and motivated enough, it can also lead to confusion and lack of direction. So if the boat was off course and people didn’t know what to do, imagine getting a directive to just do what you feel like and steer the boat where you want it to go.

Transactional leader

Next we have the transactional leader. These types of captains have a clear plan for where they wanna go, and they’re not going to let anything get in the way. They constantly check on the crew, making sure everybody is doing their job and following orders. They also think that the captain-crew relationship is like a trade. The idea is that people are primarily motivated by self-interest and the crew will work harder if they receive some sort of reward for good performance, maybe a free meal or two. And if you’re not pulling your weight? Well, you might find yourself walking the plank. This seems ideal, that you’ve got a good leader in your hands, especially when the water is calm and there are no obstacles in the way. But what happens is, if a storm comes along and throws the boat off course like with our previous captains, this particular captain might struggle in that kind of situation. Since his focus is on sticking to the plan and following rules. It’s very hard to break from routine and who knows, he might even steer the boat into the eye of the storm because he just can’t deviate from the plan.

Transformational leader

Finally, we have the transformational leader. This is the kind of boss who inspires and motivates their crew to achieve great things – like the captain who rallies the crew together and gives them a pep talk when the going gets tough. Sort of like getting the crew together to perform a sea shanty. Transformational leaders can be incredibly effective at getting their crew to work together towards a common goal, but they can also be a bit like a motivational speaker who’s had just a little bit too much coffee.

So, which leadership style is best?

So, which leadership style is the best? Well, it depends on the situation – and on the crew you’re working with. Sometimes you need a captain who’s a bit of a tyrant, and sometimes you need a captain who’s more like a cheerleader. The best leaders know how to adapt their style to fit the needs of their crew and the challenges they’re facing.

Show notes simplified

In this episode, MJ the tutor discusses how each style of leadership has its own strengths and weaknesses, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to leading a team. As a captain of the ship, it’s important to understand your own style and how it affects your crew. By adopting a flexible and adaptable approach, the captain can steer the ship towards success, no matter what challenges lie ahead.

“Ding Ding Small Bell” ( by JohnsonBrandEditing ( licensed under CC0 Licence.

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