Friday, April 12, 2013

Patrick J. Murphy and Ray W. Coye's "Mutiny and Its Bounty"

Patrick J. Murphy is associate professor of management, DePaul University. He is chair of the Management History Division in the Academy of Management. Ray W. Coye is associate professor emeritus of management, DePaul University. The authors each have maritime service backgrounds and seafaring experience.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Mutiny and Its Bounty: Leadership Lessons from the Age of Discovery, and reported the following:
Mutiny and Its Bounty examines mutinies that occurred on seafaring ventures led by Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Sebastian Cabot, and Henry Hudson during the Age of Discovery. We mined voluminous primary sources from these enterprises, which were undertaken 500 years ago, to generate deep insights into how those mutinies occurred. The book’s principal contribution is an illustration of the function of mutiny on those ventures. Unlike today, mutiny was not always seen as bad. To the contrary, it could be good for an enterprise. The best leaders of the era were experts at quelling mutiny or harnessing it for the good of the venture. Today’s entrepreneurs, who are also leading risky ventures into uncertainty, have much to learn from this history.

On page 99, we find a critical juncture in one of the book's richer cases: Cabot's venture for Spain into the Rio de La Plata (April 1526-July 1530). A subsection begins there entitled “The Voyage Home.” It was October 6, 1529, and Cabot had just decided to return to Seville.

When it comes to managing the impressions of people in power for one’s own benefit, few people throughout history can match Sebastian Cabot. He was son of Italian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) who landed at Newfoundland for England five years after Columbus’s most famous voyage. Using his father’s achievement, Cabot undertook an amazing career that began in England, shifted into Spain, and then back into England, where he re-founded the “Company of Merchant Adventurers” with Henry Hudson’s grandfather.

For the enterprise we find on page 99, Cabot had convinced most of Spain that he was an expert seafarer. His need for achievement compelled him to apply to lead a high-profile venture inspired by Magellan’s circumnavigation a few years earlier. It intended to trace Magellan’s route, cross the Pacific, and draw new charts to safeguard Spain’s claims in the Spice Islands. However, Cabot’s actual expertise was nothing compared to his ability to influence others. The venture made it halfway down the South American coast, where it entered the Rio de La Plata (between Argentina and Uruguay). There, it fumbled for three years. Whole ships and many members were lost. Mutiny was an omnipresent threat, and Cabot’s steps taken to remain as leader were breathtaking even by the standards of the time. History caught up with him back in Seville, but he soon fled to England, where he again became famous.
Learn more about Mutiny and Its Bounty at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue