HR Management & Compliance

It’s Our Ship: The No Nonsense Guide to Leadership

Employment law attorney Michael Maslanka reviews the book It’s Our Ship: The No Nonsense Guide to Leadership by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff.  Standard book on how to manage transforms to inspiration for HR to fight corporate bureaucracy.

The title of It’s Our Ship: The No-Nonsense Guide to Leadership, another in the series by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, is deceptive. Not bad deceptive. Good deceptive. He talks about how to he took a rust bucket ship, the worst in the Navy, and made it into one of the best. But it sounds at first like rehashed advice: be fair to people, listen to different viewpoints, lead by example.

But when you finish, it is much more. It is his fight, albeit quietly waged, with the Naval bureaucracy (the French gave us this word, which means “sick office”). He is too loyal to be openly disloyal, but it’s there. Naval officers on a ship are forced ranked by their captain. Those on the bottom? Their career in the Navy, no what what else they do or how good they are, is over. He can’t change that, but he can make it better, telling those who will end up at the bottom that he will give them assignments making them more valuable in civilian life.

So at first, the book reads just like a standard book on how to manage. But when you read it closely, you see that it really about one guy fighting the bureaucracy. And that is the value for HR who fights that fight every day. Not to win. You can’t. But you can engage in the art of the possible. Feel oppressed by your bureaucracy? Downpressed by it? Get aboard. Weigh anchor. Set sail.

Michael Maslanka is the managing partner of Ford & Harrison LLP’s Dallas, Texas, office. He has 20 years of experience in litigation and trial of employment law cases and has served as Adjunct Counsel to a Fortune 10 company where he provided multi-state counseling on employment matters. He has also served as a Field Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

Mike is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as a “Texas Super Lawyer” by Texas Monthly and Law & Politics Magazine in 2003. He was also selected as one of the best lawyers in Dallas by “D” Magazine in 2003. Mike has served as the Chief Author and Editor of the Texas Employment Law Letter since 1990. He also authors the “Work Matters” column for Texas Lawyer. He can be reached at

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