Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Have Seen the Face of the Pilot

Robert Louis Stevenson tells of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the steerman, at his post holding the wheel unwaveringly, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more to sea.

The pilot saw the watcher and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: “I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well.”

During this time of economic crisis, you may be one of the millions around the country who is either unemployed or among the ranks of the under-employed. You may be the leader in your organization that daily carries the burden of how to meet your next payroll, and whether your company can survive the recession.

A new brand of leaders is being purged and brought forth in the fires of recession. Hardships faced with courage are how the leaders of past generations inspired us. And it is through their example we will emerge as refined leaders. Winston Churchill said, “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.”

When the man in Stevenson’s story saw the smile on the face of the pilot, he knew that things we going to be fine. While faced with the challenges of this economy and with an understanding of the struggles that many face; let us as leaders do our best to give hope to those in despair. Here are a couple of observations as to how the pilot won them over.

The pilot projected confidence. It is likely the pilot was experiencing the same range of emotions as all the other passengers. Yet during the storm, he had but one mission – to steer the ship to safety. The pilot’s responsibility was to steer the ship away from the danger. A wise Hasidic saying, “The man who has confidence in himself gains the confidence of others,” is worth remembering.

When faced with the challenge of steering your organization in these troubled times, do so with a confidence that inspires others to report back with enthusiasm that all is well. I am sure the ship was tossed and battered, but it came through the storm.

Jerome P. Fleishman said, “Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or encouragement- and we will make the goal.” I would like to encourage you to stay strong and believe that your best days are ahead of you.

The pilot projected hope. Defying orders to the contrary, one man made his way to the pilot and, without a word being spoken, got the answer he needed.

In leadership there will always be times of testing and even questioning whether you are up to the challenge. The pilot simply gave the watcher a smile and that was enough for him to share and give hope to the others.

Leadership in the storm is a different creature than leadership in times of smooth sailing. Harold Wilson said, “Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you are scared to death.” My guess is; this was not the first storm the pilot had navigated. And as the pilot held unwaveringly to the wheel, you too will come through your storm if you hold tight to hope.

I understand how tough times are right now and want to inspire you to keep your confidence and hope intact. Katherine Butler Hathaway said, “There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.” I know she is right. Be encouraged today, it will get better; I have seen the face of the pilot.

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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