The Triton survey this month was very interesting. It is clear from the results that there is a significant discordance between the perception of the captains and the perceptions of the crew regarding leadership on board yachts.
We at ICT find these responses even more fascinating due to the negative comments we hear at the office regarding the requirement to take the HELM course. In talking to many students over the past few months, the general consensus is that they do not want to have to take additional time, or pay for, leadership training.
Our perspective is that leadership training for the industry is necessary. The crew responses in the Triton survey corroborate this. Further, we feel that training centers should not only be involved in formal leadership training, but have an ethical responsibility to do so.
Yesterday’s yacht captain, who could handle a boat in any condition at any marina, is the captain of the past. Handling a yacht well is still necessary but not sufficient. Today’s yachts are much larger and more complex. Yacht operation is no longer reliant on one person, but an entire crew. The only way to manage this new vessel successfully is with good leadership skills.
The professional training of individuals in positions of responsibilities equivalent to a yacht captain’s include extensive formal leadership training. The airline industry, commercial maritime environment and major corporations invest heavily in the ongoing training of the leadership abilities of their managers and crews. Leadership training begins on day one in the military and maritime academies, and never ends.
We believe that leadership training should also be part of the entire training curriculum in the yachting industry as one continues to develop in his or her professional career. As one advances up the ranks to professional yacht captain, it is essential that they possess the leadership qualities and skills to lead their crews on increasingly more complex and larger vessels, with increasing regulatory demands, while meeting the expectations and ensuring the safety of owners, guests and crew. This cannot happen without reasonable leadership skills.
A leader is most effective if they are perceived by those they lead as a good leader. The Triton survey shows that despite the perspective of the captains, crew members do not feel that the majority of their captains are good leaders. Seventy-six percent of crew in the survey rated their captains as average or below average.
Leadership skills can be taught. The HELM requirement is a good start. It is not the solution, but is at least official recognition that such formal training is necessary for the safety and benefit of the industry. A commitment to ongoing formal structured leadership training in professional yacht education curricula can only make our crews and captains better and safer. We would rather see a Triton survey result showing 76 percent of crew rating their captains as above average. There should be no discordance with this goal.
Chief Operations Officer
International Crew Training