The Burden and the Nobility of Leadership

From the saga of those recently trapped in the San Jose gold and copper mine come multiple and exceptional stories that speak, in part, to honor, humor, celebration, courage, embarrassment, and of hope. Luis Urzua, the last man rescued, speaks profoundly to the essentiality and to the nobility of leadership. Although there was no way for the miners to know at the time that they were trapped nearly a half mile underground by 700,000 tons of rock, the initial survey  of their situation revealed their straits to be dire. Mr. Urzua, 54 years old, the superintendent at the time of the disaster, took complete charge of the emergency situation, and using his intellect, his instincts, and his leadership talents grouped the men for survival. (Photo from Reuters)

Under Mr Urzua’s leadership, the men stretched an emergency food supply meant to last just 48 hours to over two and a half weeks, taking tiny sips of milk and bites of tuna every other day. He urged sparing use of the miner’s helmet lamps and of the vehicles because of the likelihood of contaminating the air. They spent most of their first seventeen days in darkness. Early on they fired up a bulldozer to carve into a natural water source. He divided the men into three groups according to their physical conditions. He laid out exercise programs and areas. He designated a place to be used as a bathroom.

When after seventeen days, contact was made with the outside world, Mr. Urzua was the first to speak to the President of Chile. He urged President Pinera not to let the trapped miners down. “Don’t leave us alone,” he implored.

Mr Marquez, who had previously worked with Mr. Urzua, described him as a “calm, professional person” and as a born leader. “It is in his nature,” he continued. “It is his gift.”

Are you gifted with leadership abilities? Do you often find yourself facing leadership opportunities? Do others look to you for direction, for solution to problems, for ideas, for nurturing, for emotional and other support? Are you a leader? It’s a wonderful thing to be blessed with leadership qualities; yet an awesome, sometimes frightening responsibility. In one way or another, most of us are leaders, at least for some portion of our lives. Parents are leaders. Turn your head and look at those little ones trailing you. What a tremendous opportunity is there, yet what eternal obligation. Pastors are leaders. Look at those who congregate in the pews on Sunday morning. People look to you for spiritual guidance, for direction, to hear the voice of God. Extraordinary responsibility. Government officials are leaders. You have a moral charge to lead your constituents honestly and bravely.

Noble? Burdensome? Yes. The cost of true leadership is great. The rewards are sterling.

Every trapped miner had been rescued. Long-standing world records had been broken. Leadership and co-operation had prevailed. Luis Urzua and President Pinera stand together, helmets on their chests and join in singing the national anthem of the country of Chile.

(Getty Image)