CHARLES JOUGHIN. File that name away in your memory banks for a few minutes.
On April 14, 1912, Joughin was the chief baker aboard the Titanic, an ill-fated ship about to meet its fate in frigid waters in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Joughin was off duty, and asleep in his bunk when he felt a jolt. He immediately dressed and went outside his cabin to understand what was happening. Once he realized the ship was listing, he ran to his station in the kitchen, and retrieved fifty loaves of freshly baked bread.
He returned starboard to the deck, and gave four loaves to each of the lifeboats, so each party would have sustenance for whatever would lie ahead.
Once this was done, he began rounding up women and children and herding them into the open lifeboats.
Many women ran from the deck, back into the lower deck screaming hysterically that they would rather stay on the boat. Joughin chased several of them down, and physically dragged them starboard, and forcibly put several of them onto the open lifeboats.
Once this was done, he began collecting wooden chairs, and throwing them overboard, so whomever was not on the lifeboats would have a flotation device to be able to cling on in the frigid waters.
When he returned Starboard, the lifeboats had all floated away. Joughin then once again made his way toward the kitchen. This was a tenuous journey at this point, as the Titanic was listing precariously. He found a cache of whiskey, and grabbed several bottles.
He made his way one last time starboard, and the Titanic was close to fully submerging. He opened one of the bottles and began to drink heavily. He carried a couple of other bottles with him. He then lowered himself into the frigid waters.
The temperature of the North Atlantic Sea at that point made survival difficult for more than ten minutes, but the alcohol had made the blood in his body flow more freely. Joughin floated for near an hour until a lifeboat came to his side. However, the boat was full of women and children, and Joughin, though intoxicated, refused to get in, knowing he would endanger the lives of the women and children on the lifeboat.
Fifteen minutes later, he spotted an overturned lifeboat, swam to it, and hoisted himself on top. He was later rescued, and suffered none of the ill effects that others did, such as exposure or hypothermia.
So what are the lessons of leadership to learn from Mr. Jaughin?
1. Put others in front of yourself.
Mr. Jaughin may have been afraid. He may have feared dying. He may of thought of his mother or wife or children. But his actions shouted “Let’s save whomever we can.” He was solely focused on the survival of those around him.
2. What are the measures of success?
To Mr. Jaughin, it wasn’t enough to get woman and children off the Titanic, he though ahead to how they would survive. He gave them food to better their chances of success until help came. In short, he thought ahead.
Mr. Jaughin slowed his thoughts down. He did not panic. But others did. Many women ran screaming from the deck down into the submerging boat. They were not rational. But the baker was. While it might be human to throw ones hands up, and help those who were thinking clearly, Jaughin understood that this was a temporary loss of rationality, and these people needed guidance.
4. Owning of his own greatness.
Once he had cleared the boat, and thrown the floating deck chairs overboard, there was no martyr complex for this man. He recognized his own chance for survival, as slim as it may have been. This lie in the spirits he consumed. Maybe it was an opportunity to die a little more painlessly, or maybe it was a survival strategy. But in his greatness, he recognized that the World was a better place with him in it. He chose survival.
How can a baker change the world? 1500 people perished that evening, but 700 people survived. 700 lived to breathe another day, another year, another decade. 700 lived to procreate, to pass their stories on, to influence the World.
Mr. Jaughin showed his leadership in ways many of us can only aspire to. He lived to 78 years old, another 44 years from the fateful evening on the Titanic. A hero to many, a man who stepped up in a critical time to provide leadership which he have been aware he possessed.
Each of us has this within ourselves. Believe it.