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Italian cruise captain Francesco Schettino apparently deviated off course as a favor to his headwaiter. Then he came too close to land and allowed his cruise ship, Costa Concordia, to run aground with 4200 passengers on board.

Bad scene. Some 11 people are dead and, with more missing, the potential for the count to increase still remains.

If this isn’t bad enough, we learn the captain abandoned his ship while passengers, perhaps several hundred, remained in danger on board. The Italian Coast Guard reached him somehow by phone, leaving a recording of the wayward captain arguing plaintively with the Coast Guard official’s order to get back on board, now, and help the passengers. Add to this, scores of passengers’ stories of utter chaos along with a crew that variously tried to help or themselves abandoned ship and you have an amazing failure of leadership.

We don’t yet know the whole truth about what happened on this cruise ship. Nor do we know why the captain acted in such an un-captain-like manner. But it’s obvious to anyone who’s paid attention. This is an example of how not to lead.

The best leaders lead. They assume and maintain responsibility. They act ethically, morally, and conscientiously to the extent of their knowledge and ability--and sometimes beyond. They are stewards who think constantly about the people, resources, and mission entrusted to them.

Captains, so the old sea-going saying has it, go down with the ship. This isn’t an irrational death wish. It’s a leader’s honor.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

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