I was shocked and saddened by the story of the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that sank off the coast of Tuscany. I kept picturing those scenes from the movie Titanic in which people were running this way and that, terror clearly visible on their faces as they tried to figure out how to get off the ship and save themselves. Even thinking about it now gives me the chills.
Like many people, I’ve also been thinking about the role of the leader of the ship, Captain Schettino. According to the news, he left the ship before all the passengers were evacuated! There are times when it’s appropriate for leaders to collaborate on solutions or consult with others or even avoid situations for the good of the organization. But in a moment of crisis – whether on board a ship or in an organization – the role of the leader is to step in and tell people how to deal with the crisis, and then stick with them and offer assistance as they do it. As my husband so aptly put it, “it all comes down to the leader.” And in my experience that is true whether on board a ship or inside an organization.