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Leading At The Edge

Book Review of: Into the Storm

Lessons in Teamwork from the treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race

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Review of Into the Storm, by Dr. Dennis N.T. Perkins and Jillian B. Murphy (Hardcover, 2012)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


I really enjoyed Perkins' and Murphy's previous book, "Leading At the Edge." So, I looked forward to reading "Into the Storm." This book did not disappoint!

As with their previous work, I'm very impressed with this book and highly recommend it to anyone in a management or leadership role. What sometimes happens in a sequel or series is authors will just "repurpose" the earlier book with a few editorial changes and a different central story. But that's not what these authors did. This isn't a re-warmed version of "Leading At the Edge." Yes, you can identify similarity of style. But these are two distinctly different books. Even the emphasis is different. They complement each other, rather than duplicate.

One thing that didn't change is the integrity of the authors. The title and subtitle accurately reflect the content of this book. Why is this worth commenting on? In today's nonfiction book market, the title and subtitle tend to poorly match the actual content of the book. Several books that I've recently read had subtitles written by a person who apparently had not read the book.

This one was a nail-biter. The vivid detail and fast-paced writing style made me feel as if I were watching this story in real-time via a webcam. This wasn't a management lesson book that used anecdotes of some event to illustrate a point the authors were making. It was an engaging, hard to put down account of how real people handled real events during a situation that would make for a good thriller in book or movie form.

One way to write a book like this is to tell the story and then go into the lessons learned. But that's anticlimactic and also makes it difficult for the reader to correlate things because they are so disjointed in time relative to the narrative. However, pointing out the lessons while also keeping the story moving forward is a hard task to pull off. The authors took the second approach and did it quite well.

It also helps that the story is "bookended" by certain material. In front of the story itself, we have an explanatory, groundwork-laying preface. That's followed by "The Role of the Leader." After the story, which runs 154 pages, is Part Two, "Critical Strategies for Teamwork at the Edge" (85 pages). Then "A Note to the Skipper" (4 pages).

In both books, it seems Dr. Perkins is (apparently) the lead author. It's his personal commentary you read in various places. For example, the short piece on "The Role of the Leader" is in the first person. Dr. Perkins graduated from the US Naval Academy, which is no small feat. Actually, just getting in there is quite an accomplishment. As a US Marine, he served as a company commander in Vietnam. There, he learned many lessons in leadership. And he is quick to point out he learned some of these by screwing up. That kind of humility and honesty is characteristic of a good leader, and his expressing it added to the confidence I felt as a reader listening to what he had to say.

I'm always a little leery when someone writes a "lessons learned" book or article based on a famous event. Too many times, authors of such pieces draw on the popularized account rather than the historical account. But Dr. Perkins actually sailed in a race with the crew of the Midnight Rambler. He also personally met and interviewed many of the people involved in the Hobart Race. In addition, the book has an extensive bibliography.

This book's lessons in teamwork aren't just theory that some academic dreamed up while drinking coffee and eating bagels in front of his computer. They come from intense personal experience both on the battlefields of Vietnam and from the fight for survival in an ocean race.

Today, many companies, especially small ones disadvantaged and damaged by bad government policies, are fighting for survival. Into the Storm may provide the teamwork insight those companies need. Even very small companies with very small internal teams have a network of external teams including vendors and often even customers. Applying these lessons can mean the difference between disaster and winning the race.


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