there are no lifeboats for leaders
By pa360, Dec 31 2014 11:16AM
Earlier this month, Franceso Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship stood trial for his role in the events that led to the partial sinking of that vessel and the appalling loss of life that resulted.
In addition to manslaughter, one of the charges facing Mr Schettino relates to dereliction of duty in abandoning his vessel whilst others were still on board. As I understand it, from what I have read and heard from news reports, captain Schettino's defence is that he did not abandon his vessel, but was thrown overboard into the water (or into a lifeboat).
Issues regarding accountability arising from the Costa Concordia tragedy are a matter for the Italian courts. However, over time, the incident has become somewhat of a international case study in leadership failure and crisis mismanagement.
As communities and societies we organise around the hierarchical principle. Whether that is in our homes, at our places of employment, in our places of worship or in our government. It is important for us to know who will be accountable if things go wrong, who will provide direction in a time of crisis and who will take responsibility for making decisions. Yes ours is a society hard wired for leadership - we do not just expect it we demand it. Moreover, we know great leadership when we see it - so much so that we venerate those who demonstrate those qualities we so admire.
Notwithstanding, leadership is difficult. It often demands a high price - not in our own service but rather in the selfless service of others. Former South African President Nelson Mandela described leadership this way: "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."
I really like this quote, because it perhaps reveals the two most distinctive and defining characteristics of leadership - humility and courage. These two characteristics are not mutually exclusive because it takes great courage to be humble and great humility to be courageous.
No-one really wants to be at the back at a time of celebration, we all want to be at the front. Similarly, no-one really wants to be at the front at a time of crisis, we all want to be at the back.
There are no lifeboats for leaders.