I have just added one more memory to my list of life’s great experiences.
I spent many hours yesterday with Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the captain of US Airways flight 1549 that successfully ditched in the Hudson in 2009 and the captain who saved the lives of 155 passengers and crew.
Sully is a quiet and humble man who nevertheless tours the world trying to improve aviation safety and the health of our airlines. He has more knowledge and experience about Human Factors, Management and Leadership than any other pilot I know.
Sully and I discussed our respective flights; the good, the bad and the lessons learned. He explained why we must value knowledge, training and the wisdom of experience and he continues to project these values via public forums – to serve a greater good for everyone.
Sully is a world treasure and we are fortunate to have him as a credible aviation spokesman.
Sully’s new book “Making a Difference” is a must have reference that identifies the “elements of leadership”. Unlike theoretical leadership books, Sully gathers stories of courage and inspiration from America’s best leaders then reflects these against his experiences and litmus tests to show where these best practices are used in the worlds safest industry – civil aviation.
During the time I spent with Sully yesterday, I quickly became aware of why Flight 1549 was one of the greatest successes in aviation. It was not due to luck. Sully was prepared, simple as that! Sully had been practicing for that four minute flight for his entire 40 year career. When both engines failed (and this was the first time Sully had ever experienced an engine failure), he had to instantly synthesize 40 years of flying knowledge and experience to solve a Black Swan problem. His flying skills were remarkable, his situation awareness and management was brilliant. But most of all Sully’s leadership skills were impeccable.
Sully’s book dovetails his learning and experience with advice from other famous leaders from Gene Kranz (Apollo 13) through to Jim Sinegal (Costco). There is an interesting coincidence here as Sully’s and my book (QF32) both laud Gene Kranz for his remarkable leadership skills that contributed to saving Apollo 13 from disaster. Indeed, QF32’s Chapter 18 is entitled “Apollo 13”!
Sully’s new book “Making a Difference” includes priceless nuggets of knowledge for all of us in areas such as: Ego, Responsibility, Authority, Risk, Confidence, Courage and Initiative.
I was fortunate to spend time with Sully yesterday. I felt I already knew him well via reading his books, and it turned out that I was right. WYSIWYG*. To read Sully’s book is to look into his mind, his moral foundation, experience and beliefs. What a great read!
* WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get