I finally had the opportunity to see “Sully” this weekend, the movie highlighting Capt. Chesley Sullenberger’s piloting of USAIR flight 1549 and doing a forced landing on the Hudson River, saving 155 lives in one of the most amazing feats of airmanship we have ever seen. The story is incredible and the movie brings out several key principles of both leadership and courage in the face of adversity. You can not help but be inspired by Sully’s courage and the courage of his copilot when faced with the worst emergency in aviation, when they realize they have lost both engines and have to find somewhere to land the airplane.
However for me, in addition to the superb handling of the airborne emergency, the most compelling part of the story is the example of leadership displayed by Sully and his copilot when faced with this emergency, from the minute the bird strikes occurred, to the water rescue, to the end of the NTSB investigation.
The 7 key tenets of principle-centered leadership represented throughout this drama were:
- Sully taking control of the aircraft and leading as the Captain in the left seat…. and the copilot trusting in his leadership and skills to get them through this emergency – TRUST
- The work as a team throughout the emergency, with the clear understanding of who is responsible for what job and working together to accomplish the mission – TEAMWORK
- After the water landing, Sully taking charge as the leader and helping evacuate the entire cabin before he exited the aircraft – RESPONSIBILITY
- The NTSB examination where many questioned Sully’s actions for not attempting a landing at LaGuardia or Teterboro airports, but Sully and his copilot refused to give up on their confidence in their decision process – FAITH
- Sully turning to his copilot during their break at the NTSB hearing and saying, you know I am proud of what we did in the cockpit and how we handled this emergency; demonstrating the bond they had between one another – RESPECT
- Sully rising to the challenge of the NTSB in their initial criticism of his actions, who were making judgments without the correct facts based on their biases. Sully ultimately won the argument of this crucial debate and investigation – VICTORY
- Sully continually crediting his copilot, crew and the passengers (and not just himself) for their correct actions in saving everyone’s lives aboard USAIR Flight 1549 – SACRIFICE
The story and the movie about Flight 1549 is a lesson in leadership applied continually throughout the events surrounding this amazing aviation feat. To my readers, I would ask you:
- What do you think of the many examples of leadership around this story – what more come to mind?
- What other leadership principles have I missed in this story that you think are critical to every organization and workplace environment?
If you haven’t seen the movie, go see it and think about how it applies to your daily life at work and/or home. Would love to hear your thoughts and by the way, above are pictures I took at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, NC, where they have on display the actual Airbus A320, Flight 1549 aircraft! Go see it and remember, everything rises and falls on LEADERSHIP!