By Chesley B. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger IIIOctober 29, 2018
Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger is a safety expert, author and speaker on leadership and culture.
Nearly 10 years ago, I led 154 people to safety as the captain of US Airways Flight 1549, which suffered bird strikes, lost thrust in the engines and was forced to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. Some called it “the Miracle on the Hudson.” But it was not a miracle. It was, in microcosm, an example of what is needed in emergencies — including the current national crisis — and what is possible when we serve a cause greater than ourselves.
On our famous flight, I witnessed the best in people who rose to the occasion. Passengers and crew worked together to help evacuate an elderly passenger and a mother with a 9-month-old child. New York Waterway took the initiative to radio their vessels to head toward us when they saw us approaching. This successful landing, in short, was the result of good judgment, experience, skill — and the efforts of many.
But as captain, I ultimately was responsible for everything that happened. Had even one person not survived, I would have considered it a tragic failure that I would have felt deeply for the rest of my life. To navigate complex challenges, all leaders must take responsibility and have a moral compass grounded in competence, integrity and concern for the greater good.