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Mutiny and Its Bounty

Mutiny and Its Bounty: Leadership Lessons from the Age of Discovery

Patrick J. Murphy
Ray W. Coye
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Mutiny and Its Bounty
    Book Description:

    Violent mutiny was common in seafaring enterprises during the Age of Discovery-so common, in fact, that dealing with mutineers was an essential skill for captains and other leaders of the time. Mutinies in today's organizations are much quieter, more social and intellectual, and far less violent, yet the coordinated defiance of authority springs from dissatisfactions very similar to those of long-ago shipboard crews. This highly original book mines seafaring logs and other archives of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century ship captains and discovers instructive lessons for today's leaders facing challenges to their authority as well as for other members of organizations in which mutinous events occur.The book begins by examining mutinies against great explorer captains of the Age of Discovery: Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Sebastian Cabot, and Henry Hudson. The authors then identify lessons that entrepreneurs, leaders, and other members may apply to organizational insurrections today. They find, surprisingly, that mutiny may be a force for good in an organization, paving the way to more collaborative leadership and stronger commitment to shared goals and values.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19523-1
    Subjects: Management & Organizational Behavior, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xv)
  5. Timeline of Key Events in the Age of Discovery
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  6. Introduction: Inversive Operations
    (pp. 1-12)

    What is mutiny? It is when members of an organization defy and depose an incumbent leader. Mutineers intend to influence the operations of an organization via conflict, coordinated action, promotion of interests or values, or the seizure of power and influence. Although a mutiny can remove a leader, its aim is rarely to damage or destroy the organization. On the contrary, improving the organization is a more common objective.

    Mutiny and leadership are organizational corollaries; during the period of their overlap the authority in an organization can invert precipitously. The event is usually intense and may involve reckless actions. Even...

  7. Part One ROPE AND KNIFE

    • [Part One Introduction]
      (pp. 13-14)

      Richard Eden, writing in the middle of the Age of Discovery, offers a poem addressed to all those who explore “new founde lands and islands.” The title of the poem makes his audience clear: “To all adventurers and such who take great enterprises in hand.” He proceeds to share his thoughts about boldness, then offer admonitions.

      Whoever has not experienced the bitter taste of sourness

      Is not worthy to take a meal of sweetness.

      Whoever would eat the kernel of a nut

      Must take pains to crack open the shell.

      Whoever fears the sting of bees

      Will never win much...

    • CHAPTER 1 Columbus: “The Dawn of an Age”
      (pp. 15-35)

      The Age of Discovery, the historic period in which Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Sebastian Cabot, and Henry Hudson led their enterprises, lasted for around 250 years. The practices of the seafaring culture that they represented originated on the Iberian Peninsula, expanded to the rest of the European continent, and eventually entered Britain and Ireland. The cases of mutiny that we explore span this period and are intricately connected with one another.

      The enterprises of Columbus and Magellan were separated in time by about three decades (1492; 1519). Columbus’s enterprise influenced Magellan, who went on to achieve what Columbus had actually...

    • CHAPTER 2 Magellan: “Follow and Ask No Questions”
      (pp. 36-65)

      Fernão de Magãlhaes was born in 1480 in northern Portugal (the precise city or parish is unclear) to a family of minor noble status. His parents died when he was young, and he was made a page in Queen Eleanor’s court. In early 1493, when the ships of Columbus’s first enterprise returned to Castile, he was one of many young and impressionable Portuguese inspired by the news of Columbus’s discoveries and conquests. He longed for a life at sea and, in late 1504, enlisted as a volunteer in a Portuguese armada preparing to sail for India. When it departed on...

    • CHAPTER 3 Cabot: “Nobody Knows Who He Is”
      (pp. 66-105)

      The English seafaring tradition matured later than the Portuguese and Spanish traditions, primarily between 1485 and 1550 and mainly during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Its initial development was driven largely by commerce and trade with nearby European neighbors. When Portuguese and Spanish seafaring achievements became impossible to ignore, England looked to the ocean beyond it. But the English seafaring culture was different from the Iberian one, driven to a greater extent by company rule rather than royal decree, and there was much catching up to do. By the mid-sixteenth century, England’s commercial organizations had become active...

    • CHAPTER 4 Hudson: “The Death of Discovery”
      (pp. 106-158)

      Toward the end of the Age of Discovery a shift in the dominant perception of mutiny took place. The famous mutiny during Henry Hudson’s 1610–1611 enterprise is a case in point. Unlike Columbus, who quelled mutiny by inspiring hope, Magellan, who suppressed it by exercising authority and brutality, and Sebastian Cabot, who brilliantly gauged mutineers’ intentions ahead of time, Hudson was a masterful tactician but an ambivalent strategist. Mutiny evolved aboard his ship as a natural human force, and he was deposed.

      Although Hudson was not the greatest navigator, he was a distinctive, influential leader for whom the Hudson...


    • [Part Two Introduction]
      (pp. 159-162)

      Throughout history, the sea has captured the imagination of many entrepreneurial minds. As Nicholas Breton suggested in 1616, in the quotation at the beginning of chapter 4, adventurers and merchants have often been linked to the ocean. For adventurers in the Age of Discovery, the sea was an infinite and intimidating realm: the embodiment of uncertainty.

      Excellent leadership in an environment of opportunity and risk is not so different today from what it was then, just as organization members’ reactions are similar in such environments. Human nature remains human nature. Today’s entrepreneurs and leaders face many of the same kinds...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Power of Shared Values
      (pp. 163-181)

      Shared values, trust, and distrust each come up many times in the historic cases in Part I. Service for a foreign power, which was common in the Age of Discovery, often entailed working with enemies of one’s homeland. Service aboard a ship often entailed working with people speaking different languages and adhering to different cultural norms and customs. Since exploring oceans was a dangerous business, and a seafarer’s life was to a large extent in the leader’s hands, issues of trust and distrust could become matters of life or death. Moreover, they almost always mattered to the success or failure...

    • CHAPTER 6 Architectures of Inversion
      (pp. 182-200)

      The previous chapter focused on trust and distrust to illustrate circumstances that precede mutiny. In this chapter, we shift our focus to external elements of mutiny to provide a broader conceptual architecture. Considering the nature of external environments and the fitness of organizations within them not only sheds light on what a leader can do if a mutiny occurs, but also gives insight into the strategic actions that can make a mutiny succeed or fail. Since we do have some firsthand experiences with mutiny, we will begin this chapter with Ray Coye’s reflections on his own experiences and observations of...

    • CHAPTER 7 Double-Edged Blades
      (pp. 201-218)

      On a practical and operational level, mutiny seems like the antithesis of transformational leadership. Yet the forces driving both are functionally equivalent at a deep level. In this chapter, we shed light on these forces by examining some more current mutinies. Along the way, we will present a few insights that will be especially useful not just for leaders but also for those wishing to execute a mutiny.

      The 1952 Pulitzer Prize–winning novelThe Caine Mutiny,which brought the connection between leadership and mutiny to twentieth-century attention, had an impact on public perception on par with Cabot’s 1553 document...

    • CHAPTER 8 A Force of Human Nature
      (pp. 219-230)

      In a landmark treatise on social science methodology,The Poverty of Historicism,Karl Popper asks, “If it is possible for astronomy to predict eclipses, why should it not be possible for sociology to predict revolutions?”¹ The question broaches issues of organizational dynamism that are too often ignored. Human nature does not lend itself to reliability (or predictability) over time in performance contexts, even though the purpose of organization is to create such reliability. This makes perfect sense. One of human nature’s most reliable aspects is that people find new ways to do old things. What works in one setting is...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 231-264)
    (pp. 265-272)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 273-283)