Damn the Torpedoes!

Applying the Navy's Leadership Principles to Business
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Published:May 15, 2016

Awareness of the leadership traits exhibited by Admiral Farragut in his famous order: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” can make any manager afloat or ashore more successful. Alec Fraser’s experience as a Navy captain and the president of a division of Turner Broadcasting has taught him that leadership ashore can be modeled after centuries of leadership at sea. In Damn the Torpedoes! Fraser utilizes his own experiences in the U.S. Navy and the corporate world to illustrate this concept.

Within the first sixty seconds of his induction to the U.S. Naval Academy, Midshipman Fraser was posed with a question to which he answered, “I don’t know.” This quickly proved to be an unacceptable answer in the Navy, regardless of the question. While doing the requisite push-ups that followed, he learned that there were only four ways to respond to a question or an order: “No excuse, sir,” “I’ll find out, sir,” “Yes/no sir,” and “Aye-aye, sir.” From these four responses, Fraser learned the four key concepts of being an effective leader afloat or ashore: accountability, thinking ahead, ethics, and motivation.

Damn the Torpedoes! offers concrete advice for leading in the workplace—giving step-by-step recommendations to encourage readers into adopting this different way of approaching leadership. Providing a fresh and unconventional perspective, Captain Fraser gives personal and historic examples about the leadership traits of ship captains and suggests how leaders in any organization may adapt them to make their careers and businesses successful.

According to Fraser, these four key leadership concepts are the basic principles necessary to prevent organizational chaos best summed up by a Wall Street Journal editorial on leadership at sea and ashore: “When men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts.”

List Price: $19.95
Member Price: $15.96
Product Details
  • Subject: Leadership
  • Paperback : 112 pages
  • Illustrations: 10 b/w photos
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (May 15, 2016)
  • ISBN-10: 1682470385
  • ISBN-13: 9781682470381
  • Product Dimensions: 5 X 8 in
  • Shipping Weight: 4.48 oz
  • “Leave it to a ship captain to know how to convey so much in a concise, insightful, useful and captivating book. I want my associates, and my children, to read Damn the Torpedoes!—Dave Stockert, President & CEO, Post Properties, Inc.
  • “Captain Fraser has served as guest speaker on leadership to my 4th-year engineering students on several occasions. This book is faithful and true to the lessons he imparts to these young people aspiring to prosper in a world filled with ambiguity. They are always appreciative to learn the key role of leadership in finding success out of chaos in a complex world.”—Professor Bill Todd, Scheller College of Business at the George Institute of Technology
  • "Through historical and personal stories, a former ship captain and Turner Broadcasting executive shows how four leadership principles in the midst of a raging sea battle are much the same as the leadership principles in a competitive business environment. If you want to know what it takes to be a successful leader, have a successful career, or make a business highly successful, read this book."—Roger Staubach, Executive Chairman, Jones Lang LaSalle Americas
  • “This book of leadership lessons is authentic, timely, cleanly written, and deeply relevant to the business community today, something missing from so many books in this genre.”—Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), PhD, Dean, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO
  • “Fraser's first sixty seconds in the crucible of his plebe summer at the United State Naval Academy proved that successful leadership can be learned. He quickly mastered the only four acceptable answers to any question a boss might ask. Embedded in those answers are critical principles of effective leadership. Damn the Torpedoes distills the essence of what great leaders know about accountability in the stress of war or in the demands of the marketplace—Fraser succeeded masterfully in both worlds. Anyone who aspires to influence others must read this book of amazing stories full of lessons learned.”—Dr. Tim Irwin, speaker and author of New York Times best seller, Impact, Great Leadership Changes Everything
  • “Fraser possesses the sort of leadership skills that are crucial in the business world. During his tenure at Turner Broadcasting, it was Fraser’s strong ability to lead that garnered him great respect from his colleagues and earned my confidence. It is my belief that serving as a captain in the U.S. Navy helped to instill in him a real sense of responsibility and discipline, both of which were essential in his success as a senior advisor in our company. Damn the Torpedoes! is a unique and insightful book on leadership.”—Ted Turner, CNN founder and chairman, Turner Enterprises
  • “The leadership lessons that Alec Fraser learned during his outstanding U.S. Navy career served him well as an excellent senior corporate executive and as a highly respected CNN military analyst. As different as are the roles of ship captain and corporate leader, Alec Fraser believes Navy training is wonderful preparation for successful corporate careers. His book is superb.”—Tom Johnson, former CEO, CNN & former publisher, Los Angeles Times

CAPT. Alec Fraser, USN (Ret.) is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He has had two unique careers: commanding two Navy missile ships and later serving as president of a division of Turner Broadcasting. He was also an on-air military analyst for CNN and was a guest on the Larry King Show. While he was in command of the USS Cape St. George (CG 71), the ship earned the USS Arizona Memorial Trophy for being the most combat-ready ship in the fleet.

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Customer Reviews

1 Review
Average Customer Reviews
5.00 Stars
Managing Partner, Allegiant Capital Partners
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
By: Kent D. Mitchell, CDR, SC, USN (Ret)
Captain Alec Fraser's book hits the mark! Reading business headlines, whether it be The Wall Street Journal, a local paper, or an internal business memo, will be immediately filtered in a unique and positive way. In naval terms, this book lays the keel & sets the rudder for effective and sustained Leadership. It cuts a wide swath, whether it be Commerce, Services, or Governance. Captain Fraser's keen insights should be immediately added to the Capstone Course of every Business School in the United States. "Don't set sail without it".


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