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Successful Leadership And The Human Factors Skills

On 27 March 1977, two Boeing 747 jumbo jets; KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736; collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport, Teneri...

On 27 March 1977, two Boeing 747 jumbo jets; KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736; collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport, Tenerife; Canary Islands, killing 583 people. This has been recorded as the deadliest accident in aviation history up until today.

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Given the intensity and sensitivity of the accident, many schools of thought arose. But one school of thought produced its Investigations Report which primarily blamed the KLM Captain, Jacob van Zanten, who allegedly failed to apply proper human factors skills on that day. Captain van Zanten represented the greatest aviation mind at KLM, Netherlands, having clocked 27 years of magnificent take-offs and landings. At the time of his death, he had amassed approximately 11,700 flying hours. He was the Chief Flight Instructor for the Boeing 747 fleet, again heading the KLM's Flight Training Department. It was unthinkable that such an accomplished aviation legend could make some simple and glaring mistakes that would redefine human factors in the modern day world. 

Some of the mistakes noted were as follows: 

(1) Failure to communicate properly with the air traffic control. 
(2) Failure to communicate well with his subordinates in the cockpit. 
(3) Making rushed decisions without looking at the consequences involved. 
(4) Taxing on the runway without clearance from the air traffic control. 
(5) Failure by the subordinates to correct their commander despite glaring errors for fear of being reprimanded. 

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What Do Modern Day Leaders Learn From This Accident? 

1. Teamwork is very important in all our endeavours. Even Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, needed the twelve disciples to assist him. 

2. Be a leader not a boss. When you give room to your subordinates, you will get the best out of them. 

3. Don't desire to be feared but rather earn respect. It is easy for your members to give you corrective advice when they love and respect you. But when you instill fear, chances are very high that they will leave you to "crash" that assignment, and possibly never to recover from that disaster. Command respect not fear. 

4. It is always wise to get a second opinion. Even God, he would sometimes converse with Abraham. He could have done things his own way, but instead he opted to find the opinion from Abraham, his creation. He modelled the way for us that a superior can still get assistance from a subordinate. 

Leaders are not angels. They are still prone to make mistakes. However, functioning as a team reduces the chances of making glaring mistakes and the ripple effects thereof. 

Be a great team player and see how your subordinates will stand with you. 

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That's my humble story. 

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