What the Trapped Chilean Miners Can Teach Us About Leadership

33 Chilean miners stuck in the ground for months. There aren’t many fates that could seem more dire — or depressing. But to date, most footage of these men shows them in remarkably positive spirits, at least relative to the situation. Scott Eblin’s Next Level Blog examines how leadership has played a role in this, and what executives can learn from it:

Here’s some of what we can learn from the miners:

Leaders share the role:  You might assume that the miners’ shift supervisor would take over the sole leadership role. Yes, Luis Urzua is organizing work assignments for the crew,  assisting with the plan to get out of the mine and ensuring that no one eats a meal until everyone’s food has been sent down the shaft. He has not, however, taken on every leadership responsibility for himself.  The oldest miner on the crew, Mario Gomez, has taken the leadership role of attending to the spiritual and mental health of the men. He is consulting with psychologists on the surface to monitor the psychic health of his comrades.  Yonny Barrios has taken the lead on ensuring the physical health of the crew by drawing on six months of nursing training he took 15 years ago. Barrios is administering tests and health screenings to his friends on behalf of the doctors monitoring the situation above ground. What a beautiful and impressive example these men are of leaders who share the work of leadership.

Leaders leverage their gifts:
  Each of these three miners along with others on the crew are drawing on the gifts of their life experience and interests to ensure the well being of the unit. Someone I respect recently pointed out to me that you know you’re in the right leadership role when your heart and body and not just your head tell you it’s the right way for you to contribute. That’s more likely to happen when you’re leveraging your gifts. My guess is that Urzua, Gomez and Barrios feel that kind of alignment with the leadership roles they’ve assumed.

Leaders keep the whole person in mind: 
Every organization has a bottom line. In the case of a mine rescue, the bottom line is getting the miners out alive. It’s one thing, though, to bring the men out in relatively good physical health. It’s another to bring them out with their mental, spiritual and emotional health intact. How fortunate they are to be led by men who recognize those needs and have organized everyone to consistently attend to them. What difference would it make to the health of our organizations and the people in them if every leader approached their work with such attention and care to the whole person? It’s pretty breathtaking to consider, isn’t it?

UPDATE: OK, may have been a tad ambitious on the positive commentary as it seems their situation is finally starting to get to them, but… the leadership lessons are still valuable.