I asked 37 Maritime Professionals what they want from their industry leaders…and 6 things kept coming up.

When I first wrote about the topic of leadership in the maritime industry last year, I shared the executive summary of the Masters research study I had just completed. Looking back, the article was probably a bit long and heavy for those of us who want more of a lighter yet valuable read.

In this article, I get to the point. And in each upcoming article, I answer a specific question. This time: I asked 37 Maritime Professionals what they thought of their current industry leaders. I also asked them what they desire from their existing or future leaders.

In an industry that is so vital to the world’s economy, the people leading the shore-based maritime industry must play an equally important role. Who are these people? How do they lead? Who will they lead? These are all important questions and topics that are discussed on a daily basis online, in meetings, and at maritime conferences. But despite all the conversation surrounding leadership, in the shore-based and seagoing parts of the industry, there remains to be little or limited formal research studies conducted on the subject of leadership in the shore-based maritime industry.

The objective of the research was twofold. Firstly to explore the current dominant leadership styles that exist in the shore-based maritime industry in Europe. The second objective was to establish what the desired leadership for the future of the industry is, according to mid-senior level professionals already working in the maritime field.

37 shore-based maritime professionals (24 Male, 13 Female) were interviewed. This allowed for capturing the personal experiences and opinions of a group of active European maritime professionals from across the shipping, maritime and logistics sector, coming from various countries including the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Germany and Denmark. Their opinions were gathered through a combination of interviews, focus groups and questionnaires.

Throughout the interviews/focus groups and questionnaires, all the participants were asked to select characteristics of a chosen current leader and characteristics of their desired leader based on a table of characteristics provided.

First, participants were asked to select the characteristics of a maritime leader of their choice. The characteristics come from the 5 leadership styles of Transactional, Transformational, Participative/Democratic, Servant and Authoritarian.

The most popular characteristics chosen to describe the current leaders were, in order of popularity:

This suggests that all five leadership styles of Transactional, Transformational, Participative/Democratic, Servant and Authoritarian are already present to some extent in the maritime industry, that the participants have experienced to date. It also suggests that these current leaders are making decisions, are approachable, can communicate and are at least willing to listen. It is interesting to note that most chosen leaders were a combination of all five leadership styles and no chosen leader could be identified as one particular style, except in one particular case where one chosen leader held all the characteristics of an authoritarian leader.

The most popular characteristics of chosen leaders came from the transformational, participative and servant leadership styles. However, the motivating element of the transactional style and the decisive element of the authoritarian style also scored high for the chosen leaders.

Participants were then asked to select characteristics of their desired leader.

The most popular traits chosen to describe the desired leaders were:

The most common characteristics of desired leaders came from the transformational, participative style and servant leadership styles. However, the motivating element of the transactional style scored the highest for desired characteristics. Motivating is a key element of transactional leadership because these leaders use the tool of a transactional reward or punishment to motivate their followers. However, motivating followers can also be seen in all the other four leadership styles in this table.

The three characteristics and attributes common in both lists were ‘motivating’, ‘willing to listen’, and ‘good communicator’. This could suggest that these are the key leadership characteristics the participants are looking for in a leader. This could also suggest that the most desired characteristics missing from today’s chosen leaders are ‘visionary’, ‘open-minded’, and ‘inspirational’; or, put another way:

In the current leaders, there is more of a decisive element with ‘ability to make difficult decisions’ and ‘decisive’ ranking in position 2 and 3 respectively when compared to what participants ranked highest in their desired leaders.

This tells us that perhaps participants want their desired future leaders to focus less on decision making and more on setting the vision, being open minded about how the team get there and motivating them to get there.

Motivating moved from position 6 with a score of 15 on the current leadership list to position 1 on the desired leadership list with a score of 31. However, in general, the scores increased for most characteristics in the desired leadership table which could mean that more of these characteristics are required and desired for the future than what the current leaders possess.

In conclusion, we see 6 characteristics that maritime professionals desire from their industry leaders.

Motivating, Willing to Listen, Good Communicator, Visionary, Open-minded and Inspirational.

Is this something you recognise? Do the leaders you know possess these attributes? Do you? This research is important for professionals of all levels working in the maritime industry. But it is especially important for the next/future leaders to understand what the people in the maritime industry really require and desire from their leaders.

In my next article we dig deeper. We uncover what the participants actually say about the maritime industry, its traditional nature, its leaders, gender, innovation and technology and the future. And….we discover what leaders can do to PROSPER!

Joanne Kelleher

Joanne started her communications career over 12 years ago. She is no stranger to the maritime industry having worked with various organisations in the industry throughout her professional career including the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI), GAC, Venturn and Jumbo. She is also a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) having finalised her exams in 2013 and sits on the board of the ICS Benelux development branch.

Currently, Joanne is living the dream as Corporate Communications Advisor with Jumbo, a specialist Heavy Lift Shipping and Offshore Installation company in the heart of Rotterdam. She takes pride in protecting the brand and reputation of Jumbo and gets a kick out of managing their messaging and storytelling as well as transforming their communications and marketing operations.

Joanne truly believes that “good leadership and communication has the power to change everything!”

This research has given her the unique opportunity to combine her passion for the maritime industry, her fascination with leadership and her love of communication. For Joanne, this is just the beginning. There is a wealth of untapped research just waiting to be discovered in the maritime industry and she intends to find it.


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