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E-book: ‘Leadership Failures Sink Unsinkable Ship: Business Lessons from the Titanic’

17 Apr 2012 16:02

The Forum Corporation., an international training company owned by Informa Group, has released a new  e-book “Leadership Failures Sink Unsinkable Ship: Business Lessons from the Titanic,” to examine what the captains on the three ships primarily involved did wrong (or right in the case of the Capathia, the ship that rescued more than 700 people from the disaster).

The same lessons, which involve acting with clarity, unity and agility, can be applied a century later by executives to help them identify oncoming disasters and act quickly to execute strategy in uncertain situations.

“The Titanic disaster is one of the most familiar stories there is; it has been called the greatest news story of modern times.  At its heart are failures of leadership on the Titanic and Californian,” says Graham Scrivener, Forum Corporations director.

“A century later, historians are still arguing about what could have been done to prevent the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ ship and the drowning of more than 1,500 passengers and crew. The massive investigations that followed the event resulted in a host of new laws and safety improvements to ships, including better hull and rudder design, lifeboat requirements, better exit routes and radio communications laws. But while these technical and legal improvements undoubtedly saved lives in the years to come, they didn’t address the catastrophe’s fundamental cause: disastrous leadership.”

“Leadership Failures Sink Unsinkable Ship: Business Lessons from the Titanic” takes a fresh look at the disaster, uncovers its true causes and provides practical advice business leaders can apply in today’s workplace. To download a free copy of the e-book, written by Jocelyn R. Davis, Forum’s executive vice president, Research and Development, please click here. [amendment 16/11/15: link removed]

The book highlights lessons relevant to modern businesses, including:

Strong leadership – the Carpathia responded to the scene of the disaster and saved 710 of the Titanic’s passengers.  Its Captain Rostron ensured clarity (double-checking the Titanic’s distress call and communicating the new course and situations of the entire crew); unity in his crew by setting everyone to a task and created a strong sense of purpose; and showed good management agility (Rostron made adjustments to gain maximum speed while scanning the waters with extra lookouts to avoid danger.  He didn’t wait until all the facts were known, nor did he forge blindly ahead, but immediately evaluated the situation and corrected the course while in motion).

Poor leadership – the Californian, while only miles from the Titanic, did not pick up her distress calls nor respond to her signal rockets.  There was little co-ordination amongst its wireless operators nor persistence in getting a clear warning to the Titanic of icebergs.

Its captain and officers showed no sense of common purpose or adherence to a set of common standards.  They ignored the Titanic’s distress rockets and made complacent assumptions about what was going in their vicinity.

Disastrous leadership Titanic - its captain showed extremely low leadership, having an ill-defined goal (“get to New York in record time”) that was not revealed or discussed with crew members.  No one heeded the iceberg warnings or made appropriate adjustments before hitting one.  Extra lookouts were not posted, nor were there any other adjustments despite the ship’s increased speed.

Once disaster struck, the officers were unable to create a sense of urgency or co-operation to get the passengers to board the lifeboats.