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Coro Fellows

As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

Inspiring boldness

The human character is not set in stone. It behaves more like wet cement filling in a new surrounding. Although I believe I know the personalities of those closest to me, for example, I find those personalities evolving in unpredictable ways. A human reaction to a crisis can be even more unpredictable.

The Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit presented an extreme crisis. The reaction of passengers to the fire aboard the plane was not premeditated. It was a quick reaction to an impending danger. I do not believe those who took action have a biological advantage, or that they were better prepared to mentally handle such a crisis. Rather, they simply made the decision to take action and do what they saw as necessary and right.

These moments of courage by regular citizens remind me of the power of action and our ability to create change rather than simply follow others and do nothing. As citizens, I believe we must understand we are like wet cement: We have the ability to change and become something new. -- Frank Rodriguez


Problems shape leaders

As Warren Bennis said, "Leaders learn by leading, and they learn best by leading in the face of obstacles. As weather shapes mountains, problems shape leaders." Jasper Schuringa, described his heroic act on the plane as something that was "natural." The quality that made him a leader was the resolve to follow through with a decision under intense pressure.

Like an EMT who goes through training before they are sent into the field, leaders can equip themselves with tools and experiences to face many types of scenarios. Despite training tools and preparation, there will continue to be unexpected situations that one cannot prepare for. Schuringa could have developed his ability to make on-the-spot decisions through his work or throughout other life experiences. Whatever the case, his decision to act was something that had to be done quickly without hesitation. This boldness in a leader is a lesson that many times can only be taught and learned in the heat of the moment. -- Jimmy Duong


Survival of the fittest

There are no ordinary individuals, only extraordinary circumstances. The one who feels the most personally threatened will respond with magnanimous strength and courage, regardless of the outcome. This person is not defeated by fear; on the contrary, they are enabled to fight for survival, to be the fittest. It is not taught and neither is it character: It is intrinsic.

With 300 people on a plane, in the same scenario, only one or two may react. This is not because the other 298 do not value life. It is because the two instinctively rise to the top to fight for survival. -- Ashley Nesby


Miracle aboard Flight 253

The instinct to respond quickly in crisis situations is not coded in our DNA nor is it innate: It is nurtured into existence and is nestled somewhere within us all. There are the catalysts, those moments or circumstances in our lives that call the instinct into action, where we ultimately act.

The instinct therefore is learned and develops over time. It is valid to ask whether the passenger aboard Flight 253 would react the same way if 9/11 never occurred. These moments reshape and influence our instinct and expand our conscience. This prior knowledge, which is learned, informs our understanding of what may happen if we do not act.

These spontaneous leaders are perfect storms. The instinct blends with the circumstance and out comes the Sullys of the world and the Miracle on the Hudson, or in this case the Miracle aboard Flight 253. -- Clayton Rosa

By Coro Fellows

 |  December 30, 2009; 7:45 AM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Datdamwuf2, nobody's saying he did nothing to help. What we're saying is it's the media that needs to get a grip--he reacted more quickly than some other passengers (other passengers were involved in subduing the inept underpants bomber). If he hadn't been on the plane, someone else would have done something similar about a second later. Probably one of the other passengers involved in subduing the idiot kid. Maybe one of the flight attendants.

The fact that he helped is great, but it doesn't make him a hero. The media is bent on casting someone as the hero in their infotainment play, however, which is the problem everyone is talking about in this thread.

Posted by: dkp01

----------------------------------------------------

I'm pretty sure that the article states that people were running the other way from the flames as the guy was fumbling to ignite the rest of the device while his legs were on fire. This dude ran TOWARDS the fire while everyone else ran AWAY.

A few more seconds and we'd probably be watching a memorial ceremony right now.

Posted by: theobserver4 | January 4, 2010 1:08 PM
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Datdamwuf2, nobody's saying he did nothing to help. What we're saying is it's the media that needs to get a grip--he reacted more quickly than some other passengers (other passengers were involved in subduing the inept underpants bomber). If he hadn't been on the plane, someone else would have done something similar about a second later. Probably one of the other passengers involved in subduing the idiot kid. Maybe one of the flight attendants.

The fact that he helped is great, but it doesn't make him a hero. The media is bent on casting someone as the hero in their infotainment play, however, which is the problem everyone is talking about in this thread.

Posted by: dkp01 | December 31, 2009 1:17 PM
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For those who are saying the guy who acted didn't help, it was only the terrorist screwed up, get a grip. The passenger helped to put out a fire and subdue a terrorist, hero may not be the right word but certainly he made a difference. If the fire had gotten out of control many could have been injured or died. Was he selfless? Not likely, but what he did certainly saved people from injury or death. So if you don't like hero then find a word you do like. And, if he makes some cash off interviews, more power to him, he deserves it.

Posted by: datdamwuf2 | December 31, 2009 11:59 AM
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Jessica Lynch comes to mind.

Heroes

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This war's dead heroes, who has seen them?
They rise in smoke above the burning city,
Faint clouds, dissolving into sky —

And who sifting the Libyan sand can find
The tracery of a human hand,
The faint impression of an absent mind,
The fade-out of a soldier's day dream?

You'll know your love no more, nor his sweet kisses —
He's forgotten you, girl, and in the idle sun
In long green grass that the east wind caresses
The seed of man is ravished by the corn.



Posted by: katman13 | December 31, 2009 8:58 AM
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I have always been a bit uncomfortable with “leadership” training as a concept. I have attended courses that explicitly promoted this idea from ROTC to graduate seminars and it was very rare for any compelling insights to be presented. I have believe that leadership will be enhanced if our educators infuse the development of personal character into every course of study.

I do not know the details of the attempted terror attack, so I am not ready to dismiss the heroism of those who thwarted it. The 9/11 attacks changed the protocol of cooperating with the assailants that had prevailed until then. Now everyone assumes that any attack is designed to be lethal and most will respond accordingly. I know that I would not tolerate any attempt to produce an open flame on an aircraft. One ironic effect of these events is that anyone that had aspired to be the next D.B. Cooper is permanently grounded.

Posted by: SCKershaw | December 31, 2009 1:28 AM
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Fake heroes seem to be anointed everyday. Capt. Sully was not a hero. He was trained to make emergency water landings. It was no miracle. It was training. The PA crash on 9-11 wasn't about heroes. It was about some people "possibly" trying to retake the plane to save their butts. No evidence points to them actually doing it. I believe that the terrorists caused the crash. Our government and media love to create heroes to cover up their ineptitude and to sell advertising. I put a grease fire out, while cooking, am I a hero? I could have called the Fire Dept..

Posted by: rcvinson64 | December 31, 2009 12:03 AM
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Spontaneous leaders as "perfect storms," Mr. Rosa? I suggest that you get off the bad-language bandwagon and consult a dictionary. A perfect storm is ALWAYS a negative, even disasterous outcome resulting from the convergence of lesser, and often nasty elements. While I don't believe that any of the passengers in question were particularly heroic, describing them as "perfect storms" is just plain silly.

Posted by: caramia1 | December 30, 2009 4:29 PM
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Certainly no one ever said heroism came dressed one particular way, The gentleman on the plane is probably struggling with other issues in his life that has nothing to do with his ability to step up to the plate, or jump into action to save his life and others.

Posted by: MissP1 | December 30, 2009 3:56 PM
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Good point. Yes, why are we always in search of heroes and always playing up people who show a modicum of courage or simply do what they are supposed to do?

We give Obama a Nobel Priest Prize after he has given a speech or two based on some admirable intent but no concrete action. Michael Vick's teammates give him an Ed Block award for courage for accepting $600K to play 2 minutes a game (maybe) and not smoke any weed during practice.

And now we are writing about what makes heros after an inept terrorist screws up.

Posted by: jackson641 | December 30, 2009 3:46 PM
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I'm a little tired of everyone calling these passengers "heroes." The pilot who landed his plane in the Hudson was a hero. The passengers who re-took the plane that crashed in PA on 9/11 were heroes. People who pull other people off train tracks are heroes.

Nobody on flight 253 stopped the terrorist from carrying out his plan. He had ALREADY ignited the device when the "hero" (you know, the one guy who keeps talking while everyone else involved keeps quiet) took action. That plane was saved by the fact that the would-be suicide bomber was too stupid to make a bomb that worked.

I don't have any problem calling a hero a hero, or even when they cash in on what they did (like Sully did), since, you know, it's actual heroics. I don't even have a problem talking about reaction times and why one person's might have been faster than someone else's! It's interesting! But for the love of cheese, can we stop calling this guy a hero?

Posted by: dkp01 | December 30, 2009 1:59 PM
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Why are we always in search of heroes? This passenger who the media claim was so selfless wants to be paid for his interviews. Perspective please.

Posted by: Antoinette3 | December 30, 2009 1:31 PM
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