Leadership Lessons from "Sully" Sullenberger
The heroic actions of pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger in successfully guiding U.S. Airways flight 1549 to a safe (albeit frightening) landing in the Hudson River Thursday offer lessons in leadership for any executive.
As companies--and their CIOs--hope to make a safe landing in this troubled economy, looking at the skills Sullenberger summoned is an ample start.
"Sully" clearly isn't your everyday airline pilot. A former Air Force fighter jet flyer, Sullenberger has participated in National Transportation Safety Board investigations, started a safety consulting firm, and serves as a visiting scholar the Cal-Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management.
But more important than his stellar CV are the actions he took in not only guiding his troubled passenger jet to a safe landing, but in ensuring the passengers and crew were evacuated before exiting the craft.
A few vital attributes Sullenberger displayed:
Preparation: Like any pilot, Sullenberger was trained in flying and landing under duress. But he went further: he researched and studied crash situations and even consulted others on the matter.
Poise Under Pressure: According to reports, Sullenberger selflessly walked the aisle of the plane twice to make sure everyone was out. He knew his first priority once the plane hit the water, and he followed the protocol to a T.
Execution: Not only did Sullenberger have to act fast when his plane encountered engine trouble upon takeoff, but he had to warn his passengers (the now-famous "Brace for impact" warning he said through the intercom) and then help them evacuate.
As CIOs look ahead in 2009, these lessons should be top of mind: prepare for the worst, keep your poise if/when they get there, and then execute on your plans to make the most of them. IT leaders have some of the toughest jobs in today's economic climate, and their bosses will be looking for some epic performances.
Sure, CIOs don't have to worry about the lives of 155 passengers and other crew members in life-threatening scenarios, but they do have to worry about the long-term viability of their IT strategies and their companies' well being.
In the coming weeks, CIO Insight will unveil a new research study on 2009 IT spending, as well as insights from three top CIOs--Ramon Baez of Kimberley-Clark, Paul Johnson of BB&T and Jim Knight of Chubb--on managing in tough times. Their experiences and advice, like Sullenberger's, should be immensely instructive in today's economic reality.
In the meantime, take to heart Sullenberger's actions, and apply them wherever you can.