Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Leadership in a storm

The extraordinary political chaos and financial meltdown yesterday got me thinking about two scenes from the film "Master and Commander".

The first is not in a storm as you might expect but in the comfort of the rear cabin as Captain Jack Aubrey entertains his senior offices to dinner. He poses a puzzle to his friend and ship's surgeon Dr Stephen Maturin.

Given two weevils that have crawled out a piece of bread he invites Stephen to choose one. After much consideration the doctor says that one is larger and healthier than the other and hence would be his choice as it would sustain him longer.

"Wrong!" proclaims Aubrey, "In this service you must choose the lesser of two 'eevils!"

Cue much merriment, followed by songs and heels thumping hard on deck. However a short while later in a fierce storm (above) the Captain is indeed to make a hard choice. Weckage of a mast about to threaten the whole ship to capsize and sink, but attached to it is a crewman.

Aubrey can either save the one crewman or the whole ship, and selects the lesser of the two evils.

Yesterday the political leaders were given a similar choice involving not ships but a staggering $700 billion. But by doing nothing share values fell world wide by a greater amount.

It brings to mind the whole question of what is leadership? What makes, for example, a good skipper?

A number of things come to mind. Competence and understanding of the business in hand are essential, but there are a range of other abilities - to delegate, to inspire trust, to not buckle under pressure, to be able to decide and prioritise, to motivate, to concentrate on getting the job done, to be focus of life, and many more.

Similar skills are needed in many other places - from running a small business to working out what to do with a trillion of dollars worth of toxic debt. I hope a bit more of these leadership skills will be visible when the congressional leaders roll into their offices tomorrow morning at 8am.


Turinas said...

Lucky Jack for President and Maturin for VP

JP said...

No! Tina Fey for VP!

Apart from the general she's amazing just think how fun the VP debate would have been.

And you never know, Sarah Palin could try her hand at impersonation!