Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Where are our male leaders?

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.

Lacking male leaders

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.

How can we foster more healthy male leaders?


  1. Jon Tharpe on January 30, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Well written,well done, well said.

  2. Lilnondi2000 on January 31, 2012 at 8:56 am

    women cannot have it both ways! either they are subservient or equal!!

    • Tim Elmore on January 31, 2012 at 11:41 am

      That’s quite a reaction! It would be nice if life’s difficult questions would easily fall into neat categories. But I think the contrast between the men on Titanic and the Costa Concordia makes it clear that life is more complicated and imperfect than that. Men acting chivalrously and the equality of women being upheld are not mutually exclusive acts.

  3. Tamara in TX on January 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    The contrast with the Titanic’s sacrificial men came immediately to my mind when the story of the Costa Concordia began to unfold.  As a generation, we must keep the torch of civilization lit for the next generation.  I am so thankful I am married to a man who would sacrifice himself for others, and I pray my little ones will grow up in his footsteps.

    • Tim Elmore on February 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      It is quite a contrast! Glad to hear your husband is leading well!

  4. Dexter Sullivan on February 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Wow, what a great comparative! Though we aren’t all gone, we have a long journey ahead of us… In terms of multiplying a mindset of love, honor and respect in the hearts of men in this generation.

    • Tim Elmore on February 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      There is certainly work to be done. Never underestimate the influence you have in the lives of men around you!

  5. Steve Barnaby on February 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    While  usually finding your commentaries insightful, I  find the premise of this one less than credible based on the reality of the two shipping accidents. Keep in mind that less than one percent of the 4252 on board perished, while tw0 thirds of those on board the Titanic perished. So many on  the Titanic died because of just the reasons you attribute to those on the Costa.  The death statistics would have been far greater on the Costa, if not for the brave action of many–men included–passengers,  crew, rescue workers and town’s people who aided  others to survive. The story of the Costa is one of many heroic deeds in the midst of  confusion, disorder and panic. While Captain Schettino’s actions were disgraceful,  you fail to mention that Capt. Roberto Bosio, a passenger on the Costa, who  took control  and rallied  crew members and passengers in coordinating the evacuation.  Another male crew member, a waiter, was witnessed giving up his life preserver to a passenger.  By doing so,  he sacrificed his life.  Two of the male officers, one a physicians, remained on the ship until 5:30 a.m., helping to save passengers and to aid the injured. Mario Pelligrino , deputy mayor of the Isola del Griglio, lead a group of local male residents  onto the sinking ship throughout the evening and into the morning in rescuing passengers and crew.  And for several days after the accident , male rescuers worked under dangerous and life-threatening conditions in attempts to rescue passengers and later to find those who were deceased. The interpretation of the Costa story rests in  a person’s  life view. My life experience and knowledge of history demonstrates that in most harrowing circumstances many unsung heroes step up to the occasion–almost always more than those who don’t. Perhaps what is lacking is our ability to understand that people aren’t innately evil and far too many leaders  inability  to consistently honor and tell the stories of the legions of those–men included–who do the right thing. 

    • Tim Elmore on February 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      I appreciate your attention to detail, Steve. The stories of the Titanic and the Costa Concordia are certainly up for interpretation. I’ll stand by my original statement: “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 men who understand how to lead by serving, and serve by leading. Unfortunately, those stories are rare.” Thanks for highlighting the rare stories of men on the Costa Concordia and local Italian residents that acted with courage and honor.

  6. Ryan on February 18, 2012 at 3:27 am

     Get outta here women file for divorce over twice as much as men but more men are leaving their families. I see that these articles love placing all the blame on men but women free to do whatever they want. Btw women pushed men and other women to get on the life boats too but I dont see any articles on that

Leave a Comment

Where are our male leaders?