Friday, February 3, 2012

The Tale of Two Captains

 A year ago US Airways Captain Sully Sullenberger made an emergency landing in the Hudson River off New York City, after a flock of geese had struck both engines of his aircraft and destroyed them.

He was last to leave the sinking aircraft, and every passenger was rescued alive.

One year later, Captain Franceso Schettino was at the helm of the Costa Concordia cruise ship when he apparently steered it too close to shore and struck rocks that immediately caused the ship to roll on its side and become partially submerged.  More than 4,200 passengers had to fend for themselves, and 32 passengers and crew did not survive. The captain has been accused of abandoning his ship and his responsibility toward his passengers, by fleeing to safety before everyone had been evacuated.

What makes one captain a hero and one a zero?

Probably several things -- from their upbringing, to their values and personalities.  But, another key factor is their training and sense of responsibility.

It appears that "Sully" was highly trained and a trainer himself, and committed to his profession and its standards.  We don't know much about Captain Schettino, but it seems obvious that he was not trained nor committed to the responsibility of being a ship's captain.

What does all that have to do with managing or running a business, a corporation or even a not-for-profit organization?

It has everything to do with being a good and successful leader.

You have to know what can go wrong and what to do when it does go wrong.   But even more, you must practice doing the right things when something goes wrong.  Real time crisis exercises and table-top crisis exercises will prepare a management team to be "Sullys" and a failure to anticipate what all can go wrong in your organization or business, and not preparing and practicing for those things, will only make you more like Captain Schettino.

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