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Leadership Lessons from the Titanic: The "Unsinkable" Ship

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  • 1. The famous “unsinkableship” that met its tragic endwhen it hit an iceberg andsank into the North AtlanticOcean on April 15, 1912.The ship that had been onlymiles from the Titanic buthad not picked up herdistress calls or respondedto her signal rockets.The ship that responded tothe scene of the disaster andsaved 710 of the Titanic’spassengers.The captain’s goal wasill-defined (“get to NewYork in record time”). Therewas no clear, consistentplan for getting people intolifeboats and off the ship.The wireless operator sentan ambiguous warningmessage about “icebergsahead” and didn’t ensure ithad been understood.Captain Rostrondouble-checked theTitanic’s distress call andcommunicated the newcourse and situation to theentire crew.The captain never revealedor discussed his goal withcrew members.The officers were unable tocreate a sense of urgencyor cooperation to get thepassengers to board thelifeboats.There was little coordinationor helpfulness among thewireless operators, norpersistence in getting a clearwarning to the Titanic.The captain and officersshowed no sense of commonpurpose or adherence to aset of common standards.Capt. Rostron seteveryone to a task, creatinga strong sense of purposeand teamwork; the officersand crew worked togetherseamlessly.No one heeded the icebergwarnings or madeappropriate adjustments toavoid hitting one.The captain failed to postextra lookouts or make anyother adjustments for theincrease in speed.The officers ignored theTitanic’s distress rocketsand made complacentassumptions about whatwas going on in theirvicinity.Rostron made adjustmentsto gain maximum speedwhile scanning the waterswith extra lookouts to avoiddanger.He didn’t wait to act untilall the facts were known,nor did he forge blindlyahead, but movedimmediately, evaluated thesituation, and correctedcourse while in motion.

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