Tag Archives: Costa Concordia

When Leaders Lose Sight of Their Primary Purpose

Lives are lost.  Trust is broken. Property is destroyed. And, the captain is forever tainted with the whiff of cowardice, no matter what the outcome of official investigations to come.  That’s the sad tale of the cruise ship, Costa Concordia.

And Why?  This is why…

The captain, the crew, and possibly even the cruise line, failed to keep focused on their primary purpose.

I see the primary purpose of the captain and crew of a commercial sailing vessel as ensuring the enjoyment and safety of the passengers.  Simply that.

The events that led up to the sinking of the Costa Concordia showed evidence that this purpose, (or facsimile thereof), was nowhere in sight as the Captain chose to sail too close to shore reportedly with the intent of ‘saluting’ a former colleague who lived on the Island.

The result, of course, was a hundred and sixty foot gash in the ship’s hull; a crew that failed to follow proper evacuation procedures; panic and chaos among the passengers; and a captain who appears to have chosen self- preservation over the honour of fulfilling his obligation to the passengers.

This is not the first time this has happened.  In 1991, the cruise ship Oceanos sank in heavy seas off the coast of South Africa.  A similar scenario played out then. This time, luckily, no one died. But, the Captain and crew abandoned ship before the passengers, leaving them to seek leadership from two of the ship’s entertainers who, by all accounts, acquitted themselves bravely staying until the last passenger was safely off the ship.

This is what one of them relates about his experience:

So what does this teach us?   To me, one thing it teaches is the importance of knowing, understanding and believing in a business or organization’s fundamental reason for being; being clear about what and who it is there to serve; and then focusing all activity on the fulfillment of that purpose.

I know, it sounds easier than it is but having a really strong feeling of purpose can make the difference between doing the right things and courting disaster.

Another thing that comes to mind for me is that while leadership is about going first, in some situations, it is also about going last.  In short, whether they are ships or businesses, when they fail, good leaders , stay until the end.

What do you think?


Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values, Servant Leadership