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Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

Todd Henshaw, a professor at Columbia University, is Academic Director of Wharton Executive Education. Previously, he directed the leadership program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The power of humility

Captain Sullenberger provides a clear and compelling example of a leader who performed admirably under challenging conditions, yet, given all of the pressures to become larger than life, remains humble in the aftermath and reflects credit outward to his trainers, his crew, and even passengers. "We did it," rather than "I did it." Reflecting light rather than absorbing it.

I wonder how many news organizations, television talk shows, and book publishers attempted to pull Sully toward self-aggrandizement or superhuman status? It appears that we need heroes every now and then to assure ourselves that each of us is capable of miracles, and when a
story comes along that has the necessary ingredients; courage, competence, resilience, hope, selflessness, etc., we tend to thrust the main character into the role of heroic leader for our own purposes.

We often find that those to whom we have attributed greatness and superhuman qualities aren't ready or willing to accept the role or fill our need. Sully, for example, just wants to get back into the cockpit rather than pursuing fame.

As leadership authors, we often describe leaders who give more than they take, who are the model of competence in their field, who thrive under pressure, and who depend on others and reflect credit on others when great things happen. When a story like Sully's comes along, we are able to say, "There it is, that's what I mean."

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

 |  October 19, 2009; 2:35 PM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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What floors me to this day, is that you can't see it coming.

When that moment when everything you are is tested arrives, there's not even a split second to think.

You default to auto-pilot.

How odd.

How fortunate Sully's auto-pilot instinct was well honed.

Posted by: tmit | October 21, 2009 2:45 PM
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