A Leader Reads [#100Days]

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Join me as I attempt to focus a leadership lens on some of the largest fantasy series.

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The Eye of the World - Chapter 24 [#100Days, Day 18]

Wooden Ship, Iron Discipline

    While Perrin trudges along the banks of the Arinelle, Mat, Rand and Thom found a more fortunate means of transport: Spray captained by Bayle Domon.  Ships are interesting leadership laboratories.  The interaction between officers and crew is continuous; there's no leaving at 5pm.  A team of watchstanders must be awake at all times, ensuring the safe operations and navigation.  There is always something that needs doing or fixing, so even hours not on watch are spent working.  There is an unspoken demand and self-policing accountability that everyone pull their fair share, and sometimes more.  The result is a very pragmatic style of leadership, direct problem solving and an somewhat abrasive set of interpersonal skills.  

Bayle Domon drove boat and crew alike hard, railing at the contrary winds, cursing the slow pace.  He blistered the crew for sluggards at the oars and flayed them with his tongue for every mishandled line, his low, hard voice painting Trollocs ten feet tall among them on the deck, ripping out their throats.  For two days, it was enough to send every man leaping.  Then the shock of the Trolloc attack began to fade, and men began to mutter about an hour to stretch their legs ashore, and the dangers of running downriver in the dark.

The Eye of the World, p. 297

    Safety of life at sea is a captain's utmost concern, whether being chased and boarded by Trollocs or ensuring the safe navigation of the vessel. That stress adds to the pressure cooker whose other ingredients include lack of continuous sleep[1] and any upcoming mission parameters or deadlines (e.g. get to to Illian as soon as possible before the cargo rots to maximize profit).  A short-fused captain, therefore, is not unheard of. 

For the crew, living in close proximity to your co-workers imbues a certain direct, blunt honesty:

"You'd call your mother Darkfriend if it'd let you slack.  Get away from me!" He spat on Gelb's foot and went back to the line.

All the crew remembered the watch Gelb had not kept, and the pig-tailed man's was the politest response he got.  No one even wanted to work with him.

The Eye of the World, p. 298

    Shipboard life is hard, and its discipline is just as unyielding, whether it's self-regulation from the crew (the pig-tailed sailor) or external from the captain (Bayle Domon).  The purpose is to ensure rapid compliance with decisions, as time for debate is usually non-existent and action must be taken immediately, or risk the ship and the crew entirely.  Hence the reason the pig-tailed man, and his crewmates, take Gelb's dereliction of duty personally.  All of them could very well have died in their sleep.  The same for the captain - entrusting the watch to a single crew member is a vast responsibility; shirking it puts the entire ship in danger.  Rough-tongued measures such as Domon's usually only work in the short term; once the shock of the attack wore off, so did the efficacy of Domon's shouts and yells.  More effective, I think, was the softer approach where Domon takes out the Trolloc weapons and posts them at the mast for a period of time; bringing hard reality to the memories of children's stories.  Using anger to drive a point can be effective, but it should be used sparingly. 


[1] For reference, U.S. Navy Standard Workweek At Sea is defined as 70 hours, including watch-standing.  Sleep is allocated at 8 hours per 24, or 56 hours per week.  At face value, 8 hours sleep seems adequate.  In practice, it's never a continuous segment of 8 hours.  Nor are any chunks larger than 2 to 3, typically.  There are drills, special evolutions, or other requirements that interrupt the off-watch crew.  The watch sections are normally set up to rotate so that no one gets stuck continually with the midnight watches.  This rolling watch schedule prevents any sort of circadian rhythm from developing.  As a result, sleep deprivation is a fact of life for sailors; as well as the associated risks.


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