Breakout Session: Team Leadership & Followership

The Concept

We tend to think of Leadership as a singular responsibility of the Skipper, while in reality, nearly every member of a successful team is a Leader in their own right and area of responsibility: Skipper, navigator, watch captain, foredeck, cook, medical. Each member of the crew needs to be able to lead well, and the ability to step up to new Leadership roles during an emergency (e.g. injury) is critical. It is important at all times – but especially in an emergency – to know who is in charge, and to support the Leader of the moment. Each member of the team must understand how to follow, to accept direction and provide respectful feedback and forceful back-up when warranted. Any member of the crew at any time must be willing to immediately dive into any supporting role for the benefit of the vessel.

Facilitator: Ralf Steitz

The Findings

“Identifying the right Leader in the right situation is critical to successfully handling emergency situations at sea.” – Ralf Steitz

Key Best Practices

  • Establish a culture of incident analysis.
  • Define team success in terms of the mission and situation.
  • Identify and recognize the right Leader for different situations.
  • Delegate and communicate specific responsibilities throughout the crew.

Recommended changes to improve Safety-at-Sea training and education

  • Integrate Tabletop Exercises into SAS training. 
  • Incorporate discussions on delegation of Leadership roles and identifying subject matter experts within a team into SAS training.
  • Include a practical exercise on making a Station Bill into SAS training.
  • Consider making a Station Bill a mandatory document for certain offshore events.
  • Demonstrate incident reporting into SAS Training to encourage a culture shift towards self-analysis and sharing lessons learned.
  • Challenge male STC members and seminars to think critically of their actions and responses to women in Leadership roles. 
  • Work to identify women with strong experience and potential to include in planning, teaching and development of others.
  • Work to ensure we have women coaches at Jr/Sr SAS events.
A good Leader selects a crew that has the right balance of experience, skills, and personality.  A good Leader is clear about the mission, and truthful about the challenges.

Panel Watch Bill (Group Members) 

  • Ralf Steitz – Facilitator, STC, USMMA
  • Taylor Walker – Scribe, STC, MudRatz
  • Lindsay Gimple – Scribe, MudRatz
  • Sue Blank – NYC Dept. of Health
  • Stan Honey – STC, NYYC, World Sailing
  • Jonathan Kabak – CO Oliver Hazard Perry
  • Joey Moffitt – STC, NYYC
  • Ron O’Hanley – NYYC, RORC
  • Christopher Otorowski – STC, NYYC, CCA
  • Steve Minninger – STC, NYYC
  • Ken Reightler – USNA
  • Bill Strassberg – CCA
  • Brook West – STC 

Breakout Session Outputs:

The 2021 Offshore Sailing Leadership Symposium was made possible thanks to the following partners:

Presenting Partner


Supporting Partners