Monday, September 30, 2019

#273 / Heroism And Humility

Alfred Haynes
In its July 27 - July 28, 2019 issue, The Wall Street Journal had an article making a case that "humility isn't a byproduct of heroism, it's a precondition."

Citing to examples that included heroic actions by airline pilots (Alfred Haynes, pictured above, and Chesley Sullenberger), Civil Rights leaders (Rosa Parks), and business executives (Mary Barra of General Motors and James Burke of Johnson & Johnson), Sam Walker contends that "In a Life-or-Death Crisis, Humility Is Everything."

An irritating and persistent paywall might prevent you from reading the entire article linked above, so here is an excerpt: 

Modest people achieve miracles under pressure because they’re far more likely to possess four major qualities that pay dividends in a crisis.

1. Expertise
When the tiniest mistake can be fatal, there is no substitute for mastery. Before Sioux City, Capt. Haynes logged 7,000 hours in DC-10’s. Capt. Sullenberger, once a star Air Force cadet, had been flying for four decades. Mr. UrzĂșa’s 31 years of mining experience and extensive knowledge of topography proved invaluable to rescuers. 
2. Composure
Heroes immediately grasp the severity of their problems and waste no time addressing them—all while maintaining ironclad emotional control. “You must maintain your composure in the airplane or you will die,” Capt. Haynes once said. While Capt. Sullenberger later admitted to feeling “turmoil inside,” he said he never allowed himself to ponder his own fate. “I never thought about anything other than controlling the flight path and solving each problem in turn.”
3. Collaboration
Faced with an unprecedented situation, Mr. UrzĂșa understood that asserting his authority would only discourage others from making suggestions—so he promptly removed his white foreman’s helmet. “We are all equal now,” he told his men. “There are no bosses and employees.” From then on, every decision was subject to a vote. Capt. Haynes often said he realized he didn’t know any more about landing that crippled plane than anyone else in the cockpit, and that many minds were stronger than one. “If we had not let everybody add their input, we wouldn’t have made it.”

4. Confidence
Heroic leadership often comes down to something simple: believing something so unequivocally that it becomes contagious. Rosa Parks, who set off a movement in 1955 by refusing to yield her seat on an Alabama bus, once said she’d learned “that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear.” Capt. Haynes said he never felt scared on Flight 232, but his true act of brilliance was his ability to project confidence. If the crew hadn’t believed they were going to make it, he said, “we couldn’t have operated.”

I would like to think that we might all aspire to be "heroes," in our political involvement as well as in our personal lives, but let's remember that "humility" part. 

As we vet our presidential candidates, let's look for evidences of the humility that Sam Walker's article argues is a precondition to heroism. We already know how the opposite of humility looks, in a Chief Executive!

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