30 October 2020

On Wednesday 28th October 2020, the maritime community gathered online for the “Digital Danish Maritime Day – Perspectives Post COVID-19”. The virtual one day conference is a major event for the global maritime industry and brought together a broad spectrum of stakeholders from across the industry intending to find new solutions to the most important challenges facing the industry today and in the future.

Organised and hosted by Danish Shipping, Danish Maritime Authoritiesand Danish Maritime, Mark Charman, CEO & Founder of Faststream Recruitment was invited to speak in the webinar “The Future Maritime CEO”. The session, moderated by Shipping Watch’s Editor Tomas Kristiansen, discussed the trends that shape the demands of the CEO, today and in the future. Many items were debated from digitisation, green shipping, technology and COVID-19 to the attributes a successful modern-day maritime CEO will need to be successful.

You can enjoy the recording here or continue reading for Mark Charman’s full insights from the day.

This insight includes the following information:

Making the successful step from manager to top maritime executive

Many managers in the maritime sector are looking to secure their first position in a top leadership position. Successfully stepping up to this coveted role is no mean feat and there are many factors involved.

A good place to start is by looking at the survey we did in 2019 to ask maritime executives about their thoughts and feelings about management, senior executives and leadership in the sector. 76% of these executives thought that ex-mariners did not make the best leaders in the maritime sector. The traditional routes to becoming a Senior Maritime Executive are changing.

By looking at some of the key attributes that make one successful as a leader on board a ship, in comparison to being successful in a shore-based c-suite position, you can see these styles are very different.

Senior Executives recognise that the environment on-board a vessel is unlike that of an office-based job. The hierarchical style of management traditionally used aboard vessels does not translate into commercial settings, where structures have typically become flatter, and a more collaborative leadership style continue to develop.

Changing a Senior Officer’s style of management from ‘tell’ to ‘sell’ management, moving away from a systematic approach to new creative ways of thinking will have a huge impact on the future routes of talent to the Executive level. Strategic and commercial thinking is a must for modern-day maritime executives, but this experience is difficult to achieve on board a ship.

I must highlight the lack of experience of managing females aboard a vessel too, with only 4% of the Seafaring workforce being represented by females. How will those with a style focused on a male-dominated workforce transfer across to an environment where the industry is working hard to attract top female talent from both inside and outside the sector?

If you also add in the complexity of managing new generations, as well as considering leading multiple generations all at once, with different wants and needs, 88% of our survey participants believed that these needed a new leadership style.

Why some will fail in the pursuit of a promotion

In my experience, people fail to make the transition from ‘doing’ to ‘leading’. One of the other bottlenecks I see is a lack of commerciality. The maritime sector has many people who are brilliant operationally, but they lack commerciality.

A lack of profit leadership is at the forefront of what businesses are looking for from their CEOs. Maritime businesses exist to make a profit, and they need this profit leadership experience to be successful. Many people stepping up have not got this. There is a huge difference between spending money and being responsible for multi-million-pound budgets versus holding the responsibility to make a profit.

Entrepreneurialism is another gap I see. Not having the ideas, vision and ambition that is required for that step up into a leadership position is something that myself and my executive search team encounter.

Modern maritime businesses are looking for well-rounded leaders

I believe these modern maritime businesses are looking for well-rounded leaders, people who can embrace many different facets of running a business. Whether that is technology, people, finance, being the entrepreneur or the person who sets the tone and the pace of the business.

It is tough to find these people in the maritime sector. 

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