Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger will be forever known as the pilot who kept his cool in the crisis. The incident is a distant memory now, replaced with hundreds of other crashes and casualties. But to those who survived US Airways Flight 1549 emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River, the captain’s actions will never be forgotten. Matter of fact his actions still serve as a survival plan.
You don’t have to be in an airplane to experience an emergency landing. You could be in an office or a conference room, or you could be standing in front of an auditorium filled with angry shareholders. Not every crisis makes the news, some happen in a corporate headquarters far removed from the eyes of your peers.
Sullenberger’s cool didn’t just come from his personality; he put some time-tested principles in motion. There at least four that you may adopt when you are fighting for survival in a personal, financial, or organizational crisis.
First, he drew from his training. Captain Sullenberger had spent hours in a flight simulator, practicing procedures for the worst case scenario, and had faced tense situations in previous flights. Likewise over time, you’ve been practicing for your crisis. Reflect on the strategies that took you through similar gut-wrenching moments.
Second, he acted on the best available information. During the crisis, he read the gauges. He listened to the air traffic controllers. He talked with his crew. Those actions will work for you as well. Read the gauges. Gather the wisdom of your “board of advisors”— trusted leaders or mentors who’ve experienced emergency landings. And keep your crew informed.
Third, he let reason rule his mind. Panic might have chosen an alternate route—and certain calamity. He made the reasonable choice. History says he used the available to avoid the inevitable, for example using the wing flaps to slow the plane without stalling it. Great leaders learn to keep their cool and to improvise. They know that colleagues and staff are watching their reactions and actions. They calmly put survival techniques in motion.
Fourth, he didn’t flee the scene. He was one of the first to help others, and the last to leave the airplane slowly sinking into the river. His profession called him to be there, but his inner resolve kept him there. Your first reaction to a crisis may be to clear your desk and head for the exit. If it’s up to you, STAY. The lessons you learned in the crisis time can be shared with others later on.
You can be a hero or a zero, it’s up to you. I vote “HERO.”