Leadership is . . .

There’s hardly anyone who hasn’t been shocked by the recent actions of a captain who appeared to have abandoned a sinking cruise ship full of people, taking himself and other crew members to a lifeboat while the passengers aboard floundered amidst the chaos, with little to no leadership in the evacuation. This tragic event leads us to consider the question, what makes a leader? It is obviously not position. In this case, the highest position on the vessel did not ensure leadership.

On the other hand, it was reported that a couple of musicians hired to entertain the passengers on board, upon realizing there was no one coordinating the rescue, worked with the Coast Guard helicopters to get people, two by two, off the boat. They were the last two people lifted to safety before the ship began to sink into the ocean. The “position” of these two men was less than that of the crew, and yet they demonstrated courageous, selfless leadership that reportedly resulted in the safe rescue of hundreds of people.

Leadership. What is it? Who is it? What does it look like?

World-reknown author and speaker, Robin Sharma, in his book “Lead Without a Title says this:

“Leadership is less about the position you hold than the infuence you have. It’s about doing world-class work, playing at your peak, and leaving people better than you found them.”  

At Global, leadership is not about WHERE you are in the organization, it’s about WHO you are IN the organization. It’s not about claiming a marketshare, but about WHO we are in the market place. Our mission statement say this:

Global Medical Services is dedicated to preparing and empowering people to respond to sudden adversity. Our mission is to ensure that people have the training and preparation they need to mitigate any emergency they encounter, and the mental and emotional capacity to move on afterwards; secure in the knowledge that when a crisis arose, they answered with the very best versions of themselves.

I concede to the irony of this statement when placed in context of the cruise ship disaster, but want to draw attention to Sharma’s reference to leaving people better than when you found them. Our mission, is to equip people to answer the call in a crisis with courage and confidence, and to give the best of themselves to others in that situation.  Admittedly, this is a high calling, especially when it is our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable to that same standard.

At the end of the day, when the cruise ship captain’s time came to answer the call, it appears he was not equipped.  And the point is not to judge, because who knows how any one of us might act in a life-threatening situation.  The point is to use the shock and anger we might feel at his actions to ask ourselves whether we are any different, because the proof is often not found in the big events, but in the small, everyday choices we make that prepare the ground for how will respond in  the crisis.

Leadership is about doing our best all the time, no matter who’s watching. It’s about using our influence, whether big or small, in a way that creates a positive impact on those around us. It’s about being true to our word and living with integrity. It’s about putting someone else’s needs above our own; about making a sacrifice for someone who may not deserve it. It’s about honesty in our business practices and a desire to make the world a better place – in the words of Sharma, “leaving people better than we found them.”

Not everyone will be called upon to demonstrate their strength of character in an event as monumental as this. But none of us knows when we might be. Are we living the kind of leadership in life that will help us step up when that time comes? Something to think about. 

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