Captains and sinking ships

Captains and sinking ships

The tragedy that occurred off the coast of Italy brings up many ethical questions. I was unfortunately reminded of this event again when I received this poorly timed email promoting personalized t-shirts:

According to Italy’s maritime law, a captain who does not leave the ship last risks spending two years in jail, with additional punishments based on the cargo of the vessel. An article also states, “In international customary law, captains must follow principles of prudent seamanship, which means taking responsibility for the safety of crew and passengers.”

Are you in a situation in which your leadership means the difference between life and death for your customers? Do you put yourself in the trenches with your co-workers? Is your parking spot located in a different area than everyone else’s? 

Years ago, I worked with a general manager who insisted on working each and every holiday so that some of his staff were able to take the time off to be with family members. When the management team was asked to help the valet team park cars for a large reception, the same GM put on his jeans and tennis shoes and ran like the rest of us in the parking garage. He earned tremendous respect, as he never abandoned his team, regardless of the severity of the situation.

A book called “It’s Your Ship” by Michael Abrashoff tells the story of a naval captain who integrated himself into the functions of his ship and encouraged all crew members to take responsibility. In aligning himself with his crew, he helped the ship accomplish amazing results.

Please share your experiences as a captain or as a crew member, and what made a difference in navigating a ship.