Captain’s (B)log: on Teamwork and Endurance: Amid the Storms, Make Fear Your Swain, Not Your Captain!

October 25, 2019 7:36 pm

Captain’s (B)log: Amid the Storms, Make Fear Your Swain, Not Your Captain!

Part 3 of 3 on Teamwork and Endurance from Halden Group’s CEO and Captain, Michæl Kristensen.

I have spent the majority of my life as both a sailor and a CEO. While both roles may seem different in terms of duties, I believe both are remarkably similar when it comes to applying time-tested wisdom and rules of leadership and teamwork.

Over the last few weeks, I have attempted to reinforce the nautical-business leadership connection when it comes to protecting your crew amid the storm by:

  • Holistically caring for the crew physically, but also mentally and spiritually.
  • Keeping the crew “on-board” during the reactive temptation to jump into uncertain seas.

That being said and done, fear will strike even the best crews and, yes, Captains! Knowing that teams, individuals, and leaders will all get fearful from time to time, what can we do to face and deal with those fears? 

Before our Fears

“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for” – William G.T. Shedd

Everyone gets fearful, and by “everyone,” I mean EVERY SINGLE PERSON! The question is not what to do if we become afraid it’s what to do when we become afraid. Since we can’t eliminate our fear, a good first step is simply recognizing the fact beforehand that you and everyone else on the team will be afraid at some point.

Decide in advance to demote your fear from Captain to Swain.  Fear can be a useful servant but is always a dreadful master.  Therefore, turn your fears into a helpful reminder to focus your attention on what’s immediate and essential as well as what you can do about it.  Continually discipline your mind during times of anxiety to separate facts from fiction while applying your energy as to what you can be doing to help the situation. This mental conditioning is what cultivates the seeds of courage.  An undisciplined mind obsessively fills the situational unknown void with ever-frightening and paralyzing worst-case scenarios consuming valuable energy and ideas and replacing them with helplessness and more worries.

During our Fears

“Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in spite of it.” -Franklin Roosevelt

Remember that over-reacting and under-reacting can be equally as dangerous.  In other words, in fearful rough seas, both less can be more and more can be less.  For example, reefing is a sailing maneuver intended to reduce the area of a sail on a sailboat, thus improving the boat’s stability and reducing the risk of losing control of the ship by capsizingbroaching, or going under.


On the other hand, being over-canvassed is also very risky – the boat will “heel” or lean over to one side excessively, thus becoming challenging to steer and will fatigue the helmsperson quickly. Be careful not to over or under-react in your courage thus introducing additional adverse consequences to an already threatening situation.


After Our Fears and Storms


Get your crew in warm, dry clothes and restore their energy with hot food and attend to any cuts and bruises.

Afterward, clean up and inspect the boat for damage, pump the bilges, check the rig, shake out reefs, and furling.

Learning from Fear

With the storm experience fresh in your mind, make notes of what you would and would not do the next time you encounter the heavy stuff. And at the top of this list write in capital letters, “HOW TO SURVIVE THE NEXT STORM!”

Wisdom from the Wheelhouse?

Remember, some of our most precious gifts of wisdom and experience arrive wrapped in our fear, yet if we learn to find the courage to tear past fear’s thin veil, those cherished gifts are ours to keep.


From the deck of the S/V Tonic, I wish you Smooth Sailing!

Captain Michæl  Kristensen