Lessons in Leadership
Tom Verghese, our guest contributor in this issue, offers some insights into the challenges faced by a real-world team of leaders. The harrowing rescue of a soccer team trapped by flood waters in a deep cave in Thailand kept global audiences on edge in 2018.
The Thai Cave Rescue
I was in discussions recently about the Thai Cave rescue. You may recall the situation where a soccer team of 12 boys and their coach were rescued from 2.5 km inside a cave filled with water from the monsoon rains in Northern Thailand. It was an impressive feat that combined the knowledge and skills of a number of teams from around the world: the soccer coach, Navy seals, expert cave divers and more than 10,000 volunteers. There are some valuable lessons in leadership and team work that can be derived from the event.
1. Leading by Example
The coach, who also happened to be a Buddhist monk, kept the boys calm and encouraged them to meditate throughout the unfolding situation. This helped the boys remain focused and minimised their use of the dwindling oxygen supply. His courage, support and leadership was certainly key to their survival in the cave itself.
2. Engagement and playing your part
All the teams involved dedicated themselves to working within their fields of expertise and performing their role even though there was no guarantee of success. This sense of a shared goal was the central motivating factor behind the sincere and committed engagement of the many individuals involved in the rescue.
3. Clear Intention, Vision and Focus
From the outset, the goal of finding the boys and rescuing them was clear. While many options were considered, including leaving them in the cave for 4 months until the monsoon was over, it was realised that there was no other immediate way to save them but diving them out.
The focus then shifted to the best options to do this considering the boys could not swim, the poor visibility in the cave system, cold water and strong currents. A rescue like this had never been attempted before and the experts were not optimistic that it would work. The vision of the operation’s leaders, the meticulous planning, decisive decision making and exemplary organisation enabled the mission to be accomplished. It was an extraordinary achievement.
For me, this situation highlighted how leadership, vision, focus and team engagement are critical components in navigating the myriad challenges that we face in both our personal and professional lives.
You can find out more about the rescue, dubbed the "Miracle at Tham Luang," in the December issue of GQ—https://www.gq.com/story/thai-cave-rescue-miracle-at-tham-luang?verso=true.