By Ruth Limkin
Francesco Schettino is not only the shamed captain of the ill-fated cruise liner Costa Concordia, which fatally ran aground off the Tuscan coast. He is also now the inspiration between a new hashtag on twitter – #trippedandfell. The hashtag sprung from the disbelief at the Captain’s claims that he didn’t deliberately abandon ship while there were still hundred of passengers on board, but that he ‘tripped and fell’ into a lifeboat. The claim is even more incredulous considering that the ship’s number 2 and 3 were also in the same lifeboat. That’s a lot of precision tripping and falling.
Some of the tweets using the new hashtag include:
Then there’s my personal favourite…
The Captain, of course, has been roundly condemned the world over. We are all appalled for his failure to provide leadership in time of need, for his shirking of responsibility, and for offering up the lamest of excuses rather than acknowledging his mistake.
This breach of trust, played out in the spotlight, is a reminder of the many times we’ve been disappointed by those who lead us. We’re tired of leaders who are self-serving, rather than service minded. We are weary of spin rather than substance. We are fatigued by the cowardice of blame-shifting rather than the courage of owning one’s mistakes.
We want brave and noble leaders. George Orwell said it well when he declared, “High sentiments always win in the end, The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.”
I wonder if one of the reasons we detest the captain’s actions so deeply has to do with more than just a failure of leadership.
One of the most profound reflections I have read on the response to Schettino’s actions was a statement by Massimo Gramelini of La Stampa. He wrote, “Even if only half of it is true, we are nevertheless in the presence of an Italian that we cannot pretend we don’t know. More full of himself than sure of himself … Someone who creates havoc simply out of bravado and then tries to hide it with the mantra ‘Everything’s fine, no problem’, even when the ship is sinking … It’s not Schettino himself who worries me. It’s the Schettino in me.”
While we know we can be heroes, we also know we can be cowards.
What we want are leaders who help us silence the Schettino in us all.