About Captains and Jack Welch

The recent disaster of the cruise liner Costa Concordia off the Italian coast demonstrates how dramatic can be the shortcomings of the leadership culture:

  • The accused captain certainly did not break the rules for the first time in his life. Nobody follows the rules all the time and then suddenly puts a few thousand passengers in danger by approaching the coast much too closely.
  • He presumably has an excellent education and training record. Nobody is promoted to such a position overnight. Probably he owns numerous certificates proving his skills and competencies.
  • During his career, he was assessed by several supervisors and colleagues, but apparently not on accountability.

Consequently, we may assume that his professional qualifications are adequate. What’s missing?

Leadership guru Jack Welch implemented a simple matrix for the assessment of General Electric’s managers: each one had to demonstrate business performance AND adherence to the corporate values. Even the best sales manager was fired if he or she did not behave according to the core values.

Either the ocean carrier does not apply such basics in its organization or it overlooked the issue repeatedly−or both.

Accidents like this disaster happen every day–fortunately mostly without physical victims.

Leaders drive their business units or even whole organizations into the ground because, although excellent technically, they lack the discipline of values, are not able to appraise the overall situation, and do not master the consequences of their actions.

I think we need more courage to implement real accountability in organizations, instead of increasing the number of experts who know everything but cannot judge correctly and ignore basic values.


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