The Titanic Failure, Technical or Leadership Flaws ?


On April 14, 1912, the R.M.S. Titanic collided with a massive iceberg and sank in less than three hours. At the time, more than 2200 passengers and crew were aboard the Titanic for her maiden voyage to the United States. Only 705 survived. According to the builders of the Titanic, even in the worst possible accident at sea, the ship should have stayed afloat for two to three days. Read more about the technical flaws that lead to the tragedy in this report: Causes and Effects of the Rapid Sinking of the Titanic 

For the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic disaster, I invite you to think about the leadership lessons we can learn from famous failures.

Here another interesting case:  On January 28, 1986 the challenger space shuttle exploded about 1 minute after launch killing all 7 astronauts on board. The shuttle exploded because two rubber O-rings leaked after losing their resiliency because the shuttle was launched on a very cold day (less than 0 Celsius). On the day before the launch the engineers who designed the rockets were opposed to launching the challenger because they were concerned that the rings would not seal at such cold temperatures but their advises were ignored by their management. This was to be the EXACT cause of the accident.

In both the Titanic and the Challenger cases, I think ultimately it was due to a lack of good leadership.

If you are a leader, then you are going to experience failure. Some failures are due to miss-judgement and turn into tragedies,  others will break your reputation as you become the News headlines or you will be responsible for the loss of billions of dollars because of your arrogance.

Are you aware of your leadership flaws ? Here the most fatal flaws described by the leadership development company Zenger and Folkman  in their book  “The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders.” :

1. Inability to learn from mistakes

2. Lack of core interpersonal skills and competencies

3. Arrogance or lack of openness to new or different ideas

4. Lack of accountability

5. Lack of initiative

To help you in your reflection you will find in this documents famous “Failures” and causes. Great tool to use for  a team building exercise.

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11 thoughts on “The Titanic Failure, Technical or Leadership Flaws ?

  1. Gemma Thompson March 5, 2012 at 10:57 am Reply

    Hi Anne, have to admit I’m a bit of a fan of failure … sounds odd I know!
    BUT for failure to be a good thing those leadership flaws you mention such as ‘inability to learn from mistakes’ ‘lack of accountability’ and ‘arrogance or lack of openness to new or different ideas’ have to be absent. Those that embrace the lessons that failure brings can go on to be truly amazing business people.
    Although I would wish for smaller mistakes that did not lead to loss of life, limbs or health!

  2. Kelly Papotto March 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm Reply

    Hi Anne, I appreciated your article and it is good to reflect on the failed choices we make in life and business yet on should never stay there. Bill Gates, Henry Ford and even Walt Disney are good examples of failure led successes….. in that same boat, NO PUN… just saying, we all fail at times some harder than others but persistence is the payoff. My motto has always been “Nothing Beats a Failure but a Try.” Thank you for educating and sharing those key tips.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm Reply

      Thanks Kelly. I like your quote and totally agree with you about trying. If your fears to fail hold you back then you’ll never learn.

  3. Fabrizio Faraco March 6, 2012 at 3:39 am Reply

    Anne I really appreciate the post. Do you know that President Lincoln went bancrupcy before becoming a memorable president? Failure are part of leadership. I’m agree with you and I also agree that Failures are a powerful educational tool. Thanks for publishing and for sharing such good resources.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 6, 2012 at 9:31 am Reply

      Hi Fabrizio. Thanks for sharing the Lincoln story. We all need to be lifelong learners and I am wondering why we learned more from mistakes than successes ?

  4. Mallie Dein March 6, 2012 at 10:13 am Reply

    Very thought provoking post, Anne. Some say that the only real failure is to sit back and worry about failure rather than get out and try, which several of your previous comments have mentioned. LIke Gemma, I think we all wish that some of the failures could have come on a smaller scale, while still imparting the lesson.

    I looked over your list, asking myself was I leading the way that I should, even though I only need to lead myself? That list was a reminder that I do need to continue to try and perhaps fail, as I work to make myself a better leader, communicator, and taker of action, Because, while I don’t have employees…we are leaders for our clients. We take action for them and ask them to take action for themselves.

    I believe I’ll be thinking about this for a few days. That’s just about the best compliment I hope for with my own blog posts. So, kudos. Thank you.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 6, 2012 at 10:45 am Reply

      Hi Mallie, Thank you for the compliment, appreciate being in your mind🙂. I like your approach of applying good leadership to your clients. I will extend it to partners, friends or fans in your social media communities. Yesterday I made a blog post without really thinking and it happened it hurt a reader. I rewritten the post quickly and communicated about the mistake. I hope this failure help me be a better blogger.

  5. Nathalie Villeneuve March 6, 2012 at 10:23 am Reply

    Great post Anne, I think that taking responsibility for our lack of leadership is the first step to grow and get better with people. It takes patience, determination and openness to reach higher level of leadership. For me, accepting to learn from my mistakes has been a huge step for me. Also accepting positive criticism help me with my leadership. Great share! Thanks ~ Nathalie

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach March 6, 2012 at 10:52 am Reply

      Thanks Nathalie, I think we are all Leaders one way or another. One of the toughest but most rewarding job for me is to be a mom and god knows I am not always showing good leadership traits in that role. Acknowledging my mistakes as a parent is hard for me but I am getting better.

  6. Muhammad Ismail May 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm Reply

    Thanks .. your article helped me alot in my University project “Project management blunders of titanic”.

  7. […] On the other hand we can probably credit an overly positive thinking for the disasters like the “Titanic” or the space shuttle Discovery  (see details in a previous post:  The Titanic Failure, Technical or Leadership Flaws ? ) […]

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