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Ship Captains Model Good and Poor Leadership

On January 15th, 2009, US Airways flight #1549 departed New York City’s LaGuardia’s Airport. Within a few minutes, the plane collided with a flock of geese, taking out both engines. Captain Sully Sullenberg made an emergency landing in the chilly waters of the Hudson River. Before he left the plane and got to safety, he walked the plane twice to make sure no one was onboard. As the captain, he knew that he must be the last person on the plane. “Sully” became a national hero.

Three years later—almost to the date—on January 13th, 2012, a massive Italian cruise ship called the Costa Concordia crashed into the rocks and started to sink. An investigation would determine the cause of the crash: the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was trying to impress a younger female dancer on board when he veered too close to danger. The ship started sinking with its 4,000-plus passengers on board.

In the confusion and chaos, Schettino escaped on to a lifeboat before everyone else had made it off the ship. A coast guard member angrily told him on the phone to “Get back on board, d--- it.” Schettino later claimed that he fell into a lifeboat because the ship was listing to one side. But the court didn’t believe that story. Instead, he was found guilty of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning the ship with passengers on board. He was sentenced to ten years in prison.

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