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October 15, 2010 / marios

A lesson on leadership

After watching the exhilarating moment of the  Fenix 2 capsule (carrying the first rescue crew member) entering for the first time the San Jose mine where 33 Chilean miners were trapped for 69 days, I gasped in admiration of the courage of all these people: The miners for undertaking such a difficult, but necessary job; the rescue crew for putting their lives on the line to save others; but most of all, the shift manager, Louis Urzua, a true modern-day hero, and a prime example of what true leadership is all about.

I read a wonderful article by Kathy Kristof about the achievements of Louis Urzua during these horrifying 69 days that would have brought most people to the brink. To summarize the article, Louis Urzua exhibited the key features of a true leader:

  • Reputation: He was a well-loved manager, respected by all his subordinates. The miners didn’t have to ask “why” they should  listen to him. They believed in him already.
  • Teamwork: He rationed the food and persuaded everyone to eat at the same time at the same place, guaranteeing fairness and cohesion.
  • Discipline: He organized men into groups with particular responsibilities. He emphasized every individual’s importance to the team. He instituted work shifts. He improved living conditions by simulating day and night and creating a safe place where they could sleep.
  • Focus: All responsibilities were focused on surviving and getting out. For example, they used  heavy equipment to try to find fresh water. They created a map of the tunnels. They even created a latrine.
  • Shared credit: He assigned other miners the job of speaking with the people on the surface, once contact was established.

The miners, one by one, walked out of their grave, composed, calm, and according to early reports from psychological evaluations, without any early signs of post traumatic stress disorder. This is not a miracle, but a lesson on true leadership!

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