Have you been following the dramatic rescue of the 33 Chilean miners?
As I watched Luis Urzua, the final miner successfully pulled from the mine I started thinking about what I had witnessed the past 69 days. It has been an extraordinary lesson in leadership.
Many details will emerge in the coming weeks as stories are told, television interviews granted, books are written, but here are a few lessons I have learned from this story.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – While listening to the President of Chile express gratitude to a host of country leaders and organizations, the list of partners who offered help and advice was remarkable. Clearly, the Chileans recognized a task of this magnitude was well beyond their expertise and they allowed others with specific expertise to help.
Learn from experience – Experts with experience dealing with POW’s helped introduce appropriate levels of nutrition so the miners who subsisted on two days food supply for two weeks would not be harmed when food was plentiful. Submariners were consulted to help address issues created by prolonged confinement in small spaces. From all appearances, the expertise was well coordinated so the information was available when it was most needed.
Be Realistic – Once contact was made with the miners, it would have been tempting to say “we will get you out right away.” instead, the Chilean authorities were quick to indicate a rescue of this magnitude might take months. In the end, the quicker than expected rescue was welcomed news.
Give Hope a Chance – I can’t imagine rationing two days worth of food over two weeks, wondering if I would be discovered. Luis Urzua realized that the only chance for survival required drastic measures. After five or six days it would be easy to give up and say “we are going to die down here”. By adjusting, the miners gave the rescuers the time they needed. Often I am tempted to “give up” when change doesn’t happen as quickly as I would like. Leading requires stamina, calm and courage. I won’t soon forget this lesson.
Adapt – We seldom get to choose our challenges. Right after the accident Luis Urzua, the shift boss who was only on the job two months, immediately organized the mine into a society. He established discipline and a routine that would allow his men to survive physically and emotionally for 69 days deep inside a mountain. You can read more about his feat here.
Participate – The miners were given jobs to do. From clearing rock and debris to other more mundane tasks, they were not allowed to sit and wait. No matter what my circumstances are, I can and should be doing something meaningful to help change them, me or both. The miners were given other tasks that would prepare them for extraction through a narrow tube. Without collaboration, the outcome could have been very different.
Communicate – There was a great deal of communication between all parties involved. The rescuers were connecting experts with the miners, communicating with relatives, seeking out help from neighboring countries and global partners. From my perspective, the information seems to have been well managed.
Commitment – The government was committed to bringing all necessary resources to rescue the miners. Luis Urzua was a model of commitment to his men. He was the last miner to be removed. There were five volunteers who willing were lowered into the mine to assist with the rescue. Successful outcomes require perseverance, patience and discipline.
This remarkable story is a case study in leadership. It is truly a cause for celebration.
As I have reflected on the ordeal these men experienced, I have resolved to put these lessons into practice. As this story continues to unfold I am sure there will be more lessons to learn.
What are your observations? What else can you and I learn from this experience?
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