I can’t take my eyes off the photos from the Costa Concordia tragedy. And although it may or may not be accurate, the blame for this situation is landing squarely on the head of the Captain of the ship. And now there are additional claims that he abandoned ship and refused to return to help with the evacuation process. The tragedy seems to be swallowing this man whole, like the sea is threatening to do with his ship.

You may have scoffed at my comment that it “may or may not be accurate” that the Captain is to blame. As a believer of innocent until proven guilty, I feel it’s important to be fair to this human. And that, for me, is also Lesson #1 – Your Actions Speak Louder than Your Words. Although the Captain is adamant that the rocks were not on his charts, the rocks were obviously there – and there was not where HE was supposed to be. As a leader, you are always being watched (because people want to be like you — or take you down). So be sure you’re following your expected path and are in the appropriate place at the appropriate time.

Unless, that is, you have to change your path. Which is Lesson #2 – If You Screw Up, Fix It. The fact that the cruise ship is so strikingly close to shore is being credited to the Captain’s quick thinking once he realized his ship was sinking. It appears that lives were saved and the challenging evacuation process was aided by the ship’s proximity to the shore. Everyone is human which means we all make mistakes. When you do, fix it as best and as fast as you can.

Which leads me right into Lesson #3 – When You Screw Up, Take Responsibility (notice I said When, not If). Transcripts and voice recordings appear to indicate that the Captain left the ship prior to all the passengers evacuating. Further, the Captain appears unwilling, or unable, to return to the ship when commanded to do so to help with the evacuation process. This does not look good and is turning the world jury against this man. Being a leader means admitting when you make a mistake, and being brave enough to face the consequences, even though they may mean your life.

Part of what seems to have caused more confusion (and possibly loss of life) is that the ship’s crew appears unable to direct the passengers and they have been described as unsure of how to respond to the situation. So, Lesson #4 – Have the Disaster Plans in Place — And Practice Them. In the U.S., safety drills are required to be performed before the ship may leave the port but in Europe, they have 24 hours. So a safety drill had not yet been performed for the ship’s passengers. Perhaps that would’ve made some difference? At least it would’ve been fresh in everyone’s mind (passengers and crew). Like a Strategic Plan or Marketing Plan, an Emergency Plan does no one good sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

This shipwreck is a disaster on some many levels – for those who survived, for the families of those who perished, for the Captain of the ship, for the environment, and possibly for the cruise industry as a whole. What a shame. What a heartbreak. I only hope we all learn from this.

– Maggi