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An analogy of failed leadership
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"We have struck iceberg. . .sinking fast. . .come to our assistance." Those Morse coded words pierced the airwaves on a cold evening in 1912 and became the epitaph for the lives of the 1,200 people lost that night on the Titanic. Why did the largest, most advanced ship of the century sink?

It wasn’t the iceberg that caused the disaster, but something else. Clear in my mind is the real reason that mighty ship went down — leadership had failed.

Leadership is always responsible —


Leadership is more than a figurehead. Leadership is not just about power, ego and pride; it is both science and art. Leadership needs to be engaged, involved, motivating, talking, checking, removing obstacles, training and looking over the horizon for new opportunities. This was Captain E.J. Smith’s retirement trip. All he had to do was get to New York. No one is sure why he ignored seven iceberg warnings from his crew and other ships. Responsibility can’t be delegated.

Biggest is not always the best —


The larger an organization becomes, the greater its inflexibility. It can become more difficult and cumbersome to steer, to adapt and to change courses. It becomes a bureaucracy where rules, regulations, policies, procedures and "I need permission to make a decision" becomes the norm.

Rank has its privileges? —


A good organization builds trust and a sense of equality among all the people who work there. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not, organizations create a culture making people feel less valued because of their rank, status, education level or other forms of classification. This can be detrimental if you are in a business that must react to change and innovation. Ranking people limits potential. Clear the lines of communication and make everyone feel they are rowing in the same direction for the same purpose.

The truth changes —


The Titanic was unsinkable. . .so they thought. So confident were they, life boats were available for only half the passengers.

Technology is not a substitute for true leadership —


Someone said, "The danger is not that computers will replace us. The real danger is when we start acting like computers." When technology fails, leadership must prevail. Many businesses invest and put more reliance in technology than their people. If you don’t have good leadership, the best technology will not save you from a disaster.

Leadership focuses on training


— As the stern of the Titanic lifted out of the water, the crew and passengers struggled with the lifeboats. There were no drills, no rehearsals and the crew stood unfamiliar with their responsibilities. Everyone must continuously learn new skills and upgrade their knowledge to stay competitive in the global marketplace.

Leadership looks below the surface —


The greatest dangers as well as the greatest opportunities lie below the surface or just beyond the horizon. The ocean was as smooth as glass, deceptively dangerous. The biggest part of the iceberg lay below. . .unseen. Like steel fangs, it ripped 300 feet of the Titanic’s hull. Those below, the "crew and steerage," felt and saw the damage first. Those who know what’s wrong with your "ship" are those who are below, those who work on the front-line.

Leadership looks beyond the horizon —


The lifespan of a business is getting shorter. Only the most innovative will survive. Success often gets an organization in trouble. A good "Captain" is on the lookout for changing trends, changing needs, storms and icebergs.

The moral of the story — none of us were alive when the Titanic sank, but all of us lost something that night. Hopefully, we recognize the lessons learned and will chart your course toward the right direction.

Greg Smith is president of Chart Your Course International and the author of nine books including "Fired Up! Leading Your Organization to Achieve Exceptional Results."