We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The tragedy provided material for many stories; perhaps you’ve seen a movie? There are also business and leadership lessons we can learn from that fateful night of April 15, 1912.
The Leader is Always Responsible - The maiden voyage of Titanic was Capt. EJ Smith’s retirement trip. His final duty was to steer the grandest ship ever built into New York Harbor. However, Capt. Smith took many safety issues and precautions for granted that trip. He ignored multiple iceberg warnings from crew and neighboring ships. He ignored safety concerns by pushing the ship to its limits the first time out in the attempt to reach New York two days ahead of schedule.
President Harry S Truman displayed a sign on his desk: The Buck Stops Here. He knew the responsibility assumed in a leadership position. The leader is responsible for everything the organization does – or fails to do. In a disaster, the captain goes down with the ship.
Bigger Does Not Mean Better – The bigger the organization, the more difficult it is to steer, direct, and change. In large organizations, policies and procedures may sometimes circumvent common sense. Titanic was such a large ship, it took nearly a minute to steer away from the iceberg, a fact which many believe was the biggest factor in its sinking. By slowly steering away, it allowed the iceberg to rip a large gash in the side of the ship.
Reevaluate Policies and Procedures – Titanic has been often accused of not having enough lifeboats aboard the ship, but that is somewhat misleading. According to regulations of the time, the number of lifeboats required onboard a ship was in direct proportion to the ship’s weight. However, the regulation stopped calculating at 10,000 tons, for a maximum of 16 lifeboats. Titanic, over 46,000 tons, carried exactly 16 lifeboats.
After Titanic sank, the regulations changed to calculate the number of lifeboats to the number of passengers aboard the ship. As a leader, you should routinely review and reevaluate the policies and procedures of your organization. Has there been a shift in company culture or focus which warrants change to policy? Just because things always worked a certain way does not mean it cannot be done more efficiently or successfully. Be proactive in looking for improvements instead of waiting for problems to occur.
Technology Cannot Replace Personal Intuition – Prior to Titanic’s voyage, Capt. Smith was quoted as saying “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” Computers and other technology are an acceptable way of life. Modern technology allows us to perform our jobs easier, quicker, and more efficiently. However, people may rely too much on technology. Titanic’s new Marconi wireless telegraphy system may have been too cutting-edge to be effective. Neighboring ships were still relying on basic Morse Code, they didn’t know how to operate and receive the newer Marconi messages.
The best computer in your company cannot replace the life experiences of employees within the organization. Leaders have the responsibility to make difficult decisions all the time. Decisions are made based on an abundance of information, and modern technology makes obtaining that information quicker and easier than ever before. However, the final decision rests on how the leader interprets that information.
Importance of Proper Training – As the Titanic was sinking, crew members
struggled with releasing the lifeboats. There was no proper training on how to
utilize the lifeboats in the event of an emergency. Lifeboats that were
released were improperly loaded with too many or too few passengers, and only
one returned to attempt to recover more passengers.
Effective leaders understand the importance of a proper onboarding and training program. Employees are their company's greatest asset. As such, they should be afforded opportunities to be properly trained and develop their skills to be more productive and promotable. If we fail in preparing and developing our employees, we fail our customers and everyone else who depends on our business to succeed.
In : Leadership
Tags: titanic leadership lessons training