This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It was April 1912, that the “unsinkable ship” slipped into the icy waters of the north Atlantic killing hundreds on board.
This month, one hundred years later, we witnessed another sinking ship, the Costa Concordia. It was a pitiful story of a skipper—who literally skipped his duties and was arrested for abandoning his ship. I have blogged twice about this miserable display of character and leadership (see post 1 and post 2). But, an even bigger story has emerged from the disaster about how the male leaders on board this ship reacted to the tragedy. I enjoyed reading Rich Lowry’s blog about this. Rich is the editor of the National Review.
In 1912, as the Titanic entered its death throes and all its lifeboats had been launched, Capt. Edward Smith told his crew: “Men, you have done your full duty. You can do no more.” These male leaders had ensured as many ladies and children were rescued as possible. More women and children from second and third class rooms on board survived than men from first class. Why? Male leaders helped them into the lifeboats. Chivalry was very much alive. Men led the way for the most part. What a far cry from male leaders in 2012. The Costa Concordia was a very different story.
In the words of one news report, “An Australian mother and her young daughter described being pushed aside by hysterical men as they tried to board lifeboats.” Hmmm. What a difference a century makes. I believe if the male leaders on board the Titanic had read about this, they’d be ashamed. The Australian mom went on, “We just couldn’t believe it—especially the men—they were worse than the women.” Another passenger on board agreed saying, “There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats.” Others reported that men were banging into young girls and even elderly women to make sure they got a boat.
Now let me say, I am sure there were some chivalrous men on board this ship, and likely some cowardly men on board the Titanic. Today—I love hearing stories of male leaders who understand how to lead by serving, and serve by leading. Unfortunately, those stories are rare. Take a cursory glance at the state of men today…
- Far more men are leaving their marriages and families than a century ago.
- A male dominated congress isn’t able to balance a budget or cut spending.
- Men on Wall Street can’t seem curb their appetite for bonus money and sex.
- Males take longer to grow up, failing to mature out of adolescence until 28.
If you arranged to have a gigantic focus group of men and asked them why these changes have occurred, I think I know what the honest ones would say:
We had no male leaders to serve as role models of what servant-leadership should look like.
And they’d be right. This trend has been alive for decades. So, here’s my pitch. Even if you didn’t have male leaders as a role model of spiritual leadership in your home, or workplace or community—let’s break that pattern. Find a mentor, read a book and discover how to do it. We cannot change our ancestors but we can impact our descendants.