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How the Leader-Leader Model Can Help Small Business Owners in Their Digital Adoption Efforts?

If you are a small business owner, you might be facing some challenges in adopting digital technologies to improve your products, services, or processes. You might be wondering how to motivate your employees, how to delegate tasks, and how to foster a culture of innovation and learning.

One possible source of inspiration is Captain David Marquet, a former submarine commander who transformed the performance of his crew by applying a leader-leader philosophy. In his bookTurn the Ship Around! he explains how he shifted from a traditional leader-follower model, where he gave orders and expected compliance, to a leader-leader model, where he empowered his crew to make decisions and take ownership of their work.

According to Marquet, the leader-leader philosophy has four pillars: control, competence, clarity, and collaboration.

Let's see how each of these pillars can help you as a small business owner in your digital adoption efforts.


Marquet has found that giving control to your employees increases their engagement, initiative, and creativity. Instead of telling them what to do, ask them what they think and let them propose solutions.

This way, you can leverage their expertise and insights, and make them feel valued and trusted. For example, if you want to implement a new software or tool in your business, you can ask your employees for their opinions on which one to choose, how to use it, and how to measure its impact.


Marquet emphasizes that giving control requires building competence. You must ensure that your employees have the skills and knowledge to perform their tasks effectively and safely.

This means that you invest in training and development and provide feedback and coaching. For example, if you want to adopt a new digital marketing strategy, you train your employees on how to create content, use social media platforms, and analyze data.


Marquet stresses that giving control and building competence are not enough if there is no clarity. So, communicate your vision, mission, values, and goals clearly and consistently.

Also, align your actions with your words and model the behaviors you expect from your employees. For example, if you want to embrace a digital mindset in your business, show your employees how you use digital tools in your own work, and how they contribute to your overall objectives.


Marquet suggests that giving control, building competence, and providing clarity enable collaboration. That way, you can create a culture where your employees share information, learn from each other, and support each other.

Encourage diversity of perspectives and constructive feedback. For example, if you want to innovate with digital technologies in your business, make your best effort to foster a collaborative environment where your employees can brainstorm ideas, test hypotheses, and learn from failures.

In conclusion, Captain David Marquet's leader-leader philosophy can help you as a small business owner in your digital adoption efforts because it empowers your employees to make decisions, take ownership of their work, and collaborate with each other.

By applying the four pillars of control, competence, clarity, and collaboration, you can create a more engaged, productive, and innovative workforce that can leverage the potential of digital technologies.

Keep reading: Leadership, Communication, and Digital Adoption