The unfolding story of the sinking of the cruise ship Costa Concordia with the deaths, so far, of eleven lives has uncovered many tales of loss, heroism and tragedy.
For a few days last week, what seemed to have caught the attention of many people in Italy, and indeed around the world, were the dramatic recordings, found on the internet, of the exchange between Gregario Maria De Falco, Head of Operations at the Port Authority in Livorno, Italy and Captain Franco Schettino of the Costa Concordia.
Captain De Falco was in charge of the Italian Coast Guard operation to evacuate the stricken vessel after it had come to rest on the shallows of the rocky coast of the Island of Grigio, having split its hull on a rocky reef hours before.
The alleged sound recordings are of the fraught conversation between the Coast Guard Chief and Captain Schettino, who appeared to have taken his place among the women and children, in one of the ship's lifeboats that had been deployed early while many passengers continued to remain onboard.
There recordings feature the steadfast De Falco reprimanding the Captain for escaping onto a lifeboat and repudiating his duty to see to the safety of hundreds of his passengers still aboard the sinking ship. De Falco's now famous line in Italian "Varda a bordo, cazzo!" (or "Get back onboard, damn it!" loosely translated in English) pretty much says it all.
The recordings have been identified by some Italian commentators as a portrait of two archetypes of Italian manhood: the louche, loafer wearing, Ferrari driving irresponsible playboy type, and his straight backed, crew cut, sober and responsible counterpart who is unfortunately less well known to the outside world.
In these highly litigious days, it is sad to say that more and more do we see instances of people “passing the buck” and failing to take accountability and responsibility. Will we no longer see the days when Captain Smith of the Titanic went down with the ship?
All too often captains of industry will regularly point fingers at someone else, or find some other reason to face up to responsibility or accountability, it is hard to find men or women, or leaders, stand up and be counted for their actions.
Even in the work place or in the home, we can all find instances of those who have shirked their duty or not taken responsibility for their actions or for their work. In the work place have you ever come across those who live by their wits, charm and possibly connections, but who have never delivered? It is unfortunate but true, but no matter how good an organisation’s intentions are, there are some in which those who have taken the least responsibility, and therefore have been found wanting the least, are the ones who advance.
It is those who take responsibility, or take accountability, who are the ones thrown to the wolves.
At least Captain Schettino will have his come-uppance.
We should at least remind ourselves that the attributes of a leader are not just to look good while the outlook is rosy, but to be able to take charge when the chips are down. Lets hear it then for all those who have taken responsibility for their positions, who have quietly, unassumingly and steadfastly stood up to be counted.
Illustration by Cuboi Art.
For the online version click here.