”Leadership is about showing the way”

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Never ask someone else to do something you can’t imagine doing yourself. Linus Edberg tries to live up to that motto in his role as ship’s master. He has developed his leadership style from both good and bad managers during his years at sea.

Linus Edberg graduated from the Maritime Management programme at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg in 2010. During his four years of study to become a master there were very few courses on leadership and management, so he has accumulated these skills mainly through practical experience.

“I noticed in the latest course description that things have got better since I studied there, but as far as I am concerned I’ve had to pick up leadership on the job. I’ve learned through good examples, but I’ve also learned what not to do from leaders who were not so good,” says Linus Edberg, who is currently master of Sirius Shipping’s M/T Saturnus.

Linus Edberg explained in his talk at the SAN conference that he had worked with good officers for most of his time at sea. They were calm, sensible and pragmatic, as well as caring about their crew. But he has also come across masters whose leadership styles were so bad that they were a safety risk.

“As a trainee I was working on a foreign-flagged tanker where the master stood and shouted at his second mate while crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, which is a very busy and tricky passage to navigate. That sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable. I was the only Swede on board the ship.”

Another type of officer he has sailed with are those who have lost interest in their work and no longer care about what happens on board.

“On one ship the chief mate had to almost drag the captain from his cabin to get him out and take decisions.”

Responsive and calm

Linus Edberg tries to emulate the masters he has enjoyed working with. This includes being responsive and calm; his basic position is never to ask others to do something he would not do himself.

“Leadership for me is about showing by example. On one ship we had an able seaman who was not really on my side – he refused to be careful with the ship and never helped to keep it clean and tidy. One day I put on my overalls and climbed up the outside of the chimney to clean and paint it. When the seaman saw me up there he changed his attitude and began to take responsibility for the ship.”

Linus Edberg says that a good master is someone who cares about the crew, tries to create a good work environment and is part of creating a good atmosphere on the ship.

“Getting people to feel relaxed and secure is not always easy, but there are a number of things you can do. At Christmas or midsummer, for example, I give everyone a laugh by cooking the food myself, and if something is missing I try to get it on board as soon as possible. I usually think that a ship I enjoy working on is probably fun for others to work on too.”

Linda Sundgren, text and photo

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