October 17th, 2010
03:33 AM GMT
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(CNN) -- An expert in organizational psychology and the nature of great leaders is studying the reports from the Chilean mine on the role shift supervisor Luis Urzua played in keeping 33 men alive, and under control.

Bob Sutton, author of “Good Boss/Bad Boss” and Stanford professor, says “I’m quite obsessed with the feel-good stories of the miners, and I am especially interested in the competent and compassionate leadership of Luis Urzua.”

Urzua was the final miner to reach the surface.  Standing before Chilean President Sebastien Pinera, Urzua said: "A 70-day shift is a very long shift. The first days were very difficult."  Mr. Pinera responded:  "You acted like a good boss. I receive your shift."   Such was the symbolic hand-over of responsibility.

Sutton has some fascinating insights into what Urzua did, that other bosses ought to do during times of organizational strain.  Sutton challenges the notion that cutthroat leadership is the only way to make it in today’s business world.  Prediction, understanding, control, and compassion are just a few of his ingredients for leadership success during scary times.  A business leadership trainer who I worked with years ago once told me, “It’s not about perfection, it’s about connection,” which echoes Professor Sutton’s thesis that both competency and humanity are necessary components of great leadership.

Have a listen to my interview with Professor Sutton which aired on World Business Today. And check-out Sutton’s blog at: http://bobsutton.typepad.com/.  If you are a leader, or are being led, you’ll find a lot of food for thought.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Kenny Jaworski

    Thanks for a unique perspective on the event!

    Thought you might enjoy this video, which highlights the organizational efforts of the team:

    October 17, 2010 at 4:57 am |
  2. Noda Majek

    Thank you so much,am so delighted on emphassing on the qualities required of a true leader.which is very necessary,in order for the employee to have a sense of belonging and not seen like a part of machine

    October 17, 2010 at 6:28 am |
  3. maria antonia rahartati bambang haryo

    To show my admiration to President Pinera's approach in coping disasters, I wrote an ode to President Pinera's, the rescuers and the mine captain, poem based on wonderful articles in cnn.com and CNN International, and posted to fanstory.com. The title is, Mision Cumplida, Chile. Right after posting, I got 43 wonderful reviews from professional writers all over the world.

    Thank you from my heart for enriching me with fantastic information. May God bless you all.

    my website: http://www.fanstory.com/tati

    October 17, 2010 at 7:03 am |
  4. alex

    Well, the first thing that executives can learn is don't go down into the mine.

    October 17, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  5. Ignatius Albert Wijaya

    I think Luis Urzua plays a very instrumental role in the fairytale ending of the rescue effort. I wrote in another CNN article that if there was a Nobel Prize for Courage, he would surely win the 2010 award for me. Apparently as many as 92 users gave my comment a 'like', a proof that he has truly won the admiration of the world. I'm not sure from the business perspective but leadership is essential in any field of life, any Urzua has definitely given us a good example of it.

    October 17, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  6. jun bum han

    i am very surprised at this video.
    i actually see other videos broadcasting on their news.
    but i sometimes think that it is old story....

    but.. this is real situation in this world..
    i am very very happy to hear that the Chilean miners can live again from under grounds to the lands...

    i wish that they could be living well..^^

    happy.. god blessed with you..

    October 17, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  7. Elson Silva, PhD

    There is no doubt about this perfect model of leadership put the required conditions to keep them on track and achieve a positive goal in the end.

    Governments can learn with Chilean miners that managed humanity principles to reach a surviving condition and positive outcome.

    Mr. Obama in the next day expelled a teenager that was cursing him on email and we can understand that the White House is receptive to communication.

    But, Mr. Obama support is going down because of his failure leading Americans:

    He assigned Dr. Regina Benjamin a near obese lady as General Surgeon to lead a fight against obesity. His message is that a health professional that failed privately can convince Americans to achieve a balance on health diet and body fitness when she is not doing it.

    I am pursuing a sort of ‘scientific discovery’ in Hydrodynamics in the US and I have issued patents that are constantly violated by flawed patents that even do not work. I found out that around 6,000 Patent Examiners in the US none of them is a Hydrologist and this old and classic science in being judged by lay people ignoring common knowledge and accepted scientific literature.

    I sent Mr. Obama 14 letters requesting that Hydrology science be respected in the patenting affairs and I got no single reply. This guy is blatantly ignoring science!

    I am not surprise since the worst oil spill in the US was negligence toward Hydrology. Instead of using golf balls and shredded tires to clog the well in the junk shot it was supposed to use high density objects with sinking geometry. I learned about it in my PhD in Soils Science about detachment, transport, and deposition of particles in a dynamic flow. It was well lumen of 4.5 km flowing upward against gravity in a well in the sea bed 1.5 km deep moving at 2 to 3 cm/s as a bubbling flow. It seems that the junk shot was handled by lay people in Hydrology.

    We need a better leadership as Americans are 33% obese to reach 85% by 2040 if the conditions continue. Machinery replaces human muscles and food is plenty and more energetic chasing constantly man for profit in every corn possible, even in the army fortress making soldier also obese.

    Modern life brings strong consequences that requires good leaders to convince society about the importance of surviving in balance with nature. I ran two half-marathons during my PhD in the US and President Bill Clinton was the speecher of my commencement on May 10, 1996 releasing his first speech for reelection.

    October 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  8. Marg Evans

    Show the TIN HUTS these poor souls live in, while the mine owners get rich !!!

    Lets get real, these poor souls live in conditions that would kill us.

    Let the world know so maybe, please God, life couldget better forthem.

    With all my heart,


    October 18, 2010 at 6:59 am |
  9. Elson Silva, PhD

    I think that there is no compassion behind Mr. Urzua. He simply did the right things in the right time trying to expand their survival, dividing the food and assuring a team work in order to build confidence that their chances would stand as long as a longer survival would increase the potential to be rescued.

    Caring for the principles is what matters on leadership. We need to know what keep us going safely and in balance toward the future, toward eternity.

    This economic meltdown is a blatant negligence toward the economic principles letting a combined effect of greed/fears mars simple rules of offer/demand. It seems that rich countries also became rich creating capital in unsafe ways that jeopardize their own economic health. It seems that developed countries are getting the consequences of a clear unhealthy development that breaks balance with nature and common sense.

    There is no doubt that we are a capitalism society that needs to exchange values. But, allowing it to create beyond production capacity becomes highly vulnerable because there is no break to prevent it also to burn itself spreading all over the continents.

    I told Mr. Obama that the economic meltdown could be solved by a simple equation:

    Investment = investment + profit

    So, any party putting money in the stock must be eligible at least to take the basic capital back, curbing it from mishandling.

    When a person loses money in Las Vegas gambling the capital only changes hands staying in circulation. But, when a person loses money in the Stock Exchange nobody gets it and the capital is burned vanishing from the economic cycle. So, this worldwide economic meltdown burned between 30 and 40 trillion dollars erasing from 50 to 100 million jobs. This damage cannot be fixed by any government and probably is not coming back as trust was deeply harmed. Americans lost trust of being serious and honest.

    Making a simple rule that Stocks could be changed to fix investment would disengage the Stock Exchange over time removing this economic system prone to fail because it simply has the potential to harm the principles.

    We have to be honest, Mr. Obama has no brain power to lead and solve the problems as required ensuring sound world guidance. I sent Mr. Obama 14 registered letters about my ‘scientific breakthrough’ in hydrodynamics being violated shamefully by lazy patents that even do not work. The White House did not care to reply just acknowledging my letters and promising to check my request. Their mission is to brawl with drunken teenagers cursing the president and ignore scientists expanding boundaries of knowledge and revealing technological and scientific gaps to explore and avoid catastrophes like the oil spill in the Golf of Mexico. Even worse, USPTO kept issuing flawed patents after my notification that science was faulty there as well as my IP rights.

    They thought that their power could overcome science and common sense. It does not as gravity affects everybody equally, even the pope and the queen.

    The situation is getting worse because there is a new finding about neurogenesis stating that body fitness can affect creation of new neurons at hypothalamus because of increased blood circulation. So, people that do regular exercise can get more memory and cognitive senses.

    Consequently, adopting a sedentary lifestyle not only leads to obesity but also less intelligence and mood to face a gloomy outcome from a failing leadership.

    October 18, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  10. Loreen

    Elson, you mentioned your PhD three times in your dissertation here. However, there is a lot of rambling and cutting down President Obama. I am surprised that a PhD'er does not realize that when we cut down our President, we cut our country down. I am not saying that we need to agree with everything he does, but there is a certain level of respect that comes with the office and we are called to pray for him. Anyway, the comments were supposed to be what today's executives can learn from the Chilean miners. Well, their boss has exhibited a great example of how leaders should treat those in their charge. Gone are the days of Machiavellian style of leadership in the workplace.

    October 18, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  11. Oladipo Akinyemi Omole, Lagos, Nigeria

    Hi Collen,
    I couldn't agree with you more and it would be nice , if leaders would emulate Urzua.I thought what she did was only obtainable in the military.Congratulations to him and the rest of his team.
    Oladipo Omole

    October 18, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  12. Elson Silva, PhD

    Loreen, on decision making by EXECUTIVES you can compare the Chilean miners rescue with Titanic outcome. The iceberg could have been avoided but the new steering system confused the steerman who turned in the opposite direction.

    "Instead of steering Titanic safely round to the left of the iceberg, once it had been spotted dead ahead, the steersman, Robert Hitchins, had panicked and turned it the wrong way."

    J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of Titanic's owner the White Star Line persuaded the captain to continue sailing, sinking the ship hours faster than would otherwise have happened.

    "If Titanic had stood still, she would have survived at least until the rescue ship came and no one need have died," Patten said.

    Four days into the trip on April 10, 1912, the ship hit an iceberg and sank, taking more than 1,500 passengers with it.

    Top people are used to make blunders and cover up to protect businesses or reputation.

    Agreeing or disagreeing whenever you harm the principles you get consequences, like recalling cars, meat, eggs, or getting oil spill, or forecloses, or job erasing.

    As a PhD scientist I do understand the functioning of science not minding my project in Hydrology taking longer to take off because some stupid people think that they can deceive the functioning of nature, but this oil spill is saying how naïve they are and how ugly it can turn out.

    My respect to your president is the same he has to your own people sending innocent men to be wasted on business wars to foster the weaponry industry.

    This will get worse if you do not start searching a balance with nature curbing obesity. Like Titanic, your president has the power to keep the ship sailing sinking faster than would be having common sense to care and save the passengers and the crew.

    As a PhD I am aware that Science is above the Law and your Supreme Court is not trained in the functioning of science. Mr. Barack Obama is a Lawyer from Harvard as the Lawyers of USPTO Examining Patents must get my PhD books and apply the common knowledge bearing there and protect the claims of my IP rights just because I am laying down new conceptions in Hydrodynamics.

    No Law or Lawyer is going to change or cancel the content of my PhD textbooks because of their ignorance in Hydrology. No Laws of man overcome Laws of Nature.

    I do not care about wealth or fame since all these will be left behind when I die, but I like to do what is right as I carried out about 3,000 experiments to reveal new boundaries in science that lay people are stepping over it. I could simply abandon my project and move on with my life but this oil spill lasting 87 days while could have been clogged in few hours is saying how important science is in the functioning of society.

    Mr. Urzua did a good job to achieve their goals and executives may achieve the same when the principles are protected. Any form of government or leadership that is based on honesty and solidarity should overcome.

    October 18, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  13. Elson Silva, PhD

    Respect to nature is something that affect everybody equally. If you misstep and fall down, the damage and pain is going to be the same effect to kings, queens, princesses, ambassadors, pope, celebrities, justices, judges, inventors, scientists, commoners, and so on . . .

    As a scientist I have the same respect and consideration to all forms of life and nature since each are endowed to their simple right to exist and fulfill their goal whatever it is within their life cycle.

    October 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  14. Ven G. Santiago

    From some sociological perspectives, of interest is the kind of social organization which had formed in a 70-day period 2,300 feet underground in the middle of a desert in Chile. By insight and perception, I could see that such type of organization (some would call it "society") could be a direct response to environment's limitations on the part of the 33 trapped miners. Or, it could be a flexible, adaptive mechanism for "managed survival situation" (a concept which I intend to explore and introduce into the present sociological literature). More important, social science experts must construct a theoretical apparatus by which they could understand human nature. Man is a unique organism, indeed. As we all know, the history of mankind is a perpetual quest of the unknown. Also, if I may add, part of mankind's psychological dilemma is what to do with the unexpected. (Prof.) Ven Santiago, Long Beach, California

    October 20, 2010 at 2:52 am |
  15. Elson Silva, PhD

    I think that leadership is far more than organizing because it is required first to address the fundamentals and address their due importance in order to prioritize according to their relevance in the outcome aimed ahead.

    It does require some brain storm to address the core of inner functioning of things to grab their very logical understanding. Society is full of misconceptions that need continuous reevaluations and better assessment not to be trapped in the wrong track and also guide of very sound grounds.

    As a simple example I was raised believing that milk is a good food for children and grownups. I even took college in Animal Husbandry learning deeply on Dairy Cattle. I got Master in Animal Nutrition also learning how to employ high technology to the milk industry.

    Then it comes the first question: How good is milk and how important it can be to human nutrition? Checking deeply in the human physiology we can learn that around 40% of adults cannot drink milk because as they grow up, like in my case also, the production of an enzyme called lactase is interrupted leaving milk sugar indigested feeding the bacteria leading to acidity and gases and intestinal malfunctioning. How could a food that is inappropriate to 40% of adults be that good? Fruits are near 100% acceptable to all ages but is not paying ads on media.

    The truth is that milk is only good for babies like nature designed it to work that way. There is a strong economic pressure to change it but nature has its own functioning dynamics. It seems that fruits and vegetables associated to body fitness in Asian societies are leading to less osteoporosis than western societies having higher consumption of animal products. It seems that human breast was designed to produce milk for babies and not to bear silicone. One of the best foods for humans, fruits and vegetables are not friendly to the economy and manipulation by multinationals making it less and less present in our meals.

    I am not against homosexuality but nature is as it took millions of years to develop our gender and reproduction system. Two people at the same gender cannot procreate and they cannot make a family. How much should we support violating laws of nature?

    It took around 10,000 years with the beginning of agriculture to convince humans that after being born we are forced to wear clothes and cover our genitals. This is irrelevant to nature as all animals cover their genitals. So, exposing our genitals does not affect the outcome of our survival down the line.

    Now we are in the ‘Turning Point of Human Evolution’ developing machinery to replace human muscles producing food that chases human at every corner for profit. I would say that we were not developed physiologically to run away from food and work when it is not necessary, just a routine to achieve healthier bodies. So, this misunderstanding by government leadership is allowing a massive wave of obesity spread mainly to rich and developed countries where the economic pressure is higher on such factors.

    I do believe in God, but I like a simple conception that God = Nature making life a simple miracle that we should care constantly preserving and protecting the principles of our existence with a cruel reality in front of our eyes.

    We have to be honest that we are creating a modern life that does not respect our physiology and simple principles of our existence. In few words we are making many things more complicated than necessary and not protecting simple rules that makes life worthwhile.

    I am optimistic as I think that we are born to solve problems, solving those ones we face nowadays getting relieved and ready for new bumping down the line because this is the game of our continuous survival never neglecting what is in charge – Nature.

    What executives can learn? Greed, fear, negligence, disrespect for life are behind most failure on decision making. We are not perfect and have rights to mistakes, but embracing some noble principles increases the chance of successes.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  16. Alejandro Londono

    They learn that by making an international show they can distract its citizens and pass a law with no opposition.
    Also they learn how to manipulate the news because what happen to the other 300 miners that havent got paid their wages?
    Sorry aZZ government.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  17. Elson Silva, PhD

    What can executives learn from this experience?

    There is an important principle to grab from this outcome:

    ‘Good deeds and efficiency leads to biz opportunity and fair profitability’.

    Chilean government spent around 18 million dollars in the rescue operation and now the place can become an outstanding touristic place potentially handling 5 to 10 million monthly on a steady long run.

    Just by casing the lower part of the shaft and assessing the dimension and conditions of the cave down there for safety reasons campers could go down riding in the same phoenix capsules at a rate of 4 to 6 per hour near 100 per day up and down paying handsomely to feel the same experience that the miners did safely enjoying something very important and unique in the tourism businesses. I would suggest campers to bear camping gears and food to prevent much change from the original conditions. It should be provided just restrooms, electricity, and running water.

    Hope campground could become a public campsite with the options of camping over or underground, going down for a few hours or days paying sweet fees to cover basic expenses and a profit to the visiting operators giving miners another huge and important source of income as well as sharing with regular citizens around the world the opportunity to feel what a miner usually stand on their daily routine and the scope of mine trapping.

    I could predict that the place is very rustic and safe in the desert giving a sort of spirit or sacred belief of staying for a while in a place where good deeds took place and solidarity was a keystone in the positive outcome.

    Some rescued miners could still work there sharing their experience and working like they always did but in a different operation safer and more profitable.

    People spend large sums to go to space on a tour, some of them would also pay to go down the mine and share this unique experience those miners had.

    October 20, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  18. Elson Silva is a nut

    @Elson Silva, you clearly have a fundamental misunderstanding of the patent laws and the role of the USPTO.

    December 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
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