Watching this week’s rescue of 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for 69 days, I was reminded of the tremendous leadership lessons demonstrated throughout the entire ordeal. From the rescue effort from volunteers around the world, to the miners themselves – there’s a lot to be learned by watching the rescue. Here are four of my observations.
1. Success is a team effort. I haven’t found total numbers in terms of people, resources, and cost – but obviously, this rescue is a complete team effort. The trapped miners had to work as a team to endure such a long stay underground. Their leader, Luis Urzua, divided the miners into three teams and had them work in shifts to stay occupied and keep them on a schedule. Meanwhile, the team above ground – made up of experts from around the world – was working hard to find a solution.
2. Leverage your resources. Leadership isn’t about always having all the answers. More importantly, great leaders know where to find solutions. For the rescue, the Chilean government called upon experts from NASA, the Chilean Navy, and many others for ideas, answers, and help.
3. Look for alternatives. Often times, great leaders don’t rely on one single solution. Instead, they build redundancy into their systems and try to have a backup plan when possible. The Chilean rescue team had at least three possible solutions working at one time. If one failed to materialize as an option, they would move on to the next effort. BP could have learned a thing or two from this one, as they seemed to try only one effort at a time while the world waited for the oil flow to stop.
4. Take care of your people. As a leader, a big part of your job is likely making sure that your team has the tools, training, and environment they need to be successful. Two leaders stand out in the Chilean mine incident – the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and the shift foreman, Luis Urzua.
Throughout the entire 69 days, the Chilean President has been very much a part of this story. In fact, he was present when each of the 33 miners was brought to safety and gave them a personal, heartfelt greeting.
The shift foreman, Luis Urzua, taught the world a lesson by rationing food, organizing his team, maintaining the group’s morale. Long before the incident, Urzua made sure his team was properly trained and ready for anything. Even in the rescue operation, he volunteered to be the last miner brought to the surface, extending his time underground by nearly a day to see that his team made it safely out first. Reminds me of my time in the Navy, where leaders eat their meals last – only after their team is fed.
Like the Olympics, Hurricane Katrina, or perhaps the OJ verdict – it’s pretty cool to be witnessing the making of history and to know that the whole world is watching.
These are only four of the many leadership lessons the world can learn from the inspiring Chilean mine rescue. Can you think of other lessons good leaders can take away from the events of the past few days?