Leadership Lessons From Capt. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger

October 13, 2016

[mario tama/getty]
[mario tama/getty]

As the film “Sully” opened at the box office in September, moviegoers are learning more about the heroic emergency landing that Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made on the Hudson River in January 2009, three-and-a-half minutes after his ascending passenger jet struck a flock of geese that disabled its engines.

According to Chief Executive on Sept. 12, the safe river landing was a feat of control, confidence and fast decision-making under intense pressure, and sets an example for any CEO facing crisis.

Leadership “starts with core values and the willingness to actually live by them,” and the willingness to serve a cause beyond one’s own needs, Sully has said. Throughout his life, he had “been making small, regular deposits … of education, training and experience,” so that when crisis struck, the “account was sufficient that I could make a sudden withdrawal. We never know when that moment is going to come.”

Sully stayed calm under pressure. “We have always practiced for emergencies that might arise,” he said. “This one was so sudden and so extreme that I had to suppress my natural adrenaline rush, quickly channel it and not allow it to distract me.”

He had faith in his team. Sully landed the plane, but his crew kept the passengers calm and moved them safely onto the wing after the plane was on the water. “The biggest misconception is that leadership and management are the same thing,” Sully said. “They’re not. But we need both.” — Greg Beaubien

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