The 2022 Commodore Debate covered a broad range of industry topics; one audience member asked the group what the principal leadership attributes were that they draw on in difficult, uncertain times like these.
Lois Zabrocky - CMA Commodore 2020 & 2021 and CEO of International Seaways Ship Management said it was important to treat people properly as a leader. Zabrocky said she was proud of an action that came from her operational team in the early days of the pandemic.
“Early on they said ‘when we're passing Singapore, we've got to deviate to the Philippines to do a crew change’. I said you’ve got to be kidding? In my 30 years I've never seen it where we have to deviate four days to do a crew change, but alright we're gonna start doing it."
Although the move was painful from a business point of view, two years later on with the industry still dealing with the impact of COVID, it was clearly the right choice, said Zabrocky.
“Had we not done that, we would have had seafarers that had been on our ships for coming up on 12 months and that’s not humane… If you wouldn't want to be treated that way, you don't treat your people that way,” said Zabrocky.
Richard du Moulin, CMA Commodore 1999, Chairman, Pangaea Logistics and Director at Teekay Tankers said that in a busy world with more information flying around, leaders have a responsibility to empower.
“I think today's world requires that leadership has a responsibility of bringing up more people, training them better, and having everybody able to communicate up and down the chain of command. Military style isn't going to work very well, particularly if you're a public company."
Moulin said that companies need a strong team not just one step below the c-suite, but right through to the front lines. He wants to see local initiative and a willingness to pass bad news back up the chain.
“I think what leadership is most responsible for is how do you develop the team within the organization? I think you have to very consciously figure out - How are you going to educate more people? How are you going to bring them up? and how are you going to keep them in your organization?” said Moulin.
Speaking just ahead of receiving the Commodore’s hat, incoming Commodore and CEO of Eagle Bulk Shipping, Gary Vogel, echoed du Moulin on empowerment, adding that it’s important to reflect on decision that were made.
“I spent a lot of time asking myself, with the facts I had, did I make a good decision? And I discuss that with the teams all the time, because that's really helpful and informs you the next time when you have a set of facts. By doing what we call the post mortem and talking about it, that way when people are out on their own they can use that to make those decisions,” said Vogel.
“My view is, everyone comes in every day, and there's a cost and there's a value right? We all have a cost, every day we walk through the door. Can you create more value than that cost? That's our job every day, and if everybody has that mindset… I think you typically end up with good outcomes.”
John Hadjipateras, CMA Commodore 2019 and CEO & President, Dorian LPG said that integrity was key. Leaders need to focus on delivering quality to the customer, and being conscious of their impacts on communities, including the environment.