The mystery of the missing Malaysian aircraft was something that I was following over spring break. Every time I checked my Twitter feed, I was looking for more updates on what happened. There is still little information about what happened. Most of the information out there seems to be speculation – there are not a lot of hard facts.
It’s scary to think with all the technology we have today that we are not able to locate this aircraft or have any idea where it may be.
I empathize with the families. It’s never easy to lose somebody, but I can only imagine it’s even harder when there are no answers.
But how does this apply to leadership? Great leaders understand that life is full of unexpected moments and one must be ready at a moment’s notice to lead in any circumstance – tragedy or triumph, happy or sad, victory or defeat. The ability to adapt is essential. I imagine that when the passengers boarded that day, they were experiencing different emotions. Some were happy, some were sad, some excited, some bored, some scared and possibly some had a hidden agenda.
Since we have no idea what happened we can let our imaginations create many different scenarios. What if a terrorist attempted to take control of the plane? The passengers had a choice. They could do nothing and accept whatever was in store for them or someone could be a leader and take control of their destiny. In times of great stress many people freeze and look for a leader to tell them what to do. If one person took the lead, devised a plan and then executed that plan, those passengers might have had a chance at surviving to get safely off that plane. All it took was one leader to step forward. There is always a possibility a leader can make a difference, but only if they take action.
Another scenario that I’ve heard discussed is the possibility of alien abduction. When we can’t explain things with logic we tend to look to the supernatural for answers. Some will laugh but others will point out that a plane disappeared as if it someone plucked it out of the sky, why not consider the possibility of aliens? If we suspend our disbelief we can imagine another scenario. Perhaps there are other beings out there and they decided to take a plane full of people. I can imagine that would be a terrifying moment. All it takes is one leader to step forward and possibly change the outcome. A leader attempts to understand what’s going on and negotiate for a better outcome. A leader doesn’t sit back and just let things happen, he/she is an active participant in life, even when faced with a situation that can’t be won.
Regardless of what happened on that plane, I hope that someone took charge that day. A leader stepped forward and either attempted to defuse a bad situation or make the best of an impossible situation. Whether there was a terrorist on the plane, a plane malfunction or some sort of other worldly intervention, I hope that there was a leader on the plane that day who took charge in an attempt to make things better. I would rather fight where there is a possibility to win or lose, rather than sit passively where the only option is to die. Success is not always defined by achieving the outcome you want, sometimes it’s achieving a better outcome. Leadership is about understanding the risks but doing the right thing in spite of them, even when flying over an ocean with no control over your destiny.