Captain Phillips, an American action thriller film, directed by Paul Greengrassand starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, is a story based on the life of merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean during the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009 led by Abduwali Muse. Watching this movie gave me not just vicarious experiences from the characters’ struggles and challenges, but also an unexpected “awe” of how the captain manage or leads the situation, as well as how the pirates courageously conquered Maersk Alabama.
As Andy Stanley said in his book Next Generation Leader,courage is important in leadership. In fact, courage establishes leadership. It defines the leader and it is courage that makes a leader worth following.
The movie Captain Phillips is a very good picture of such leadership – First, a captain who struggled to save as many of his crew members as possible; a captain who, in the middle of chaos, strategically protected those who followed his leadership against the enemies… a man of courage indeed.
There are three expressions of courage according to Stanley: The courage to say no, the courage to face current reality and the courage to dream big.
When the pirates, as few as they are, took hold of the cargo ship, Captain Phillips had the courage to face the situation no matter how unpredictable and dangerous it may seem. With the normal tendency to respond out of fear and think of personal safety or survival, Phillip still had the courage to protect his crew members with the best of his ability, playing tricks with Muse and his “dysfunctional’ team, no matter how many times Muse reminds him “Do not play tricks with me.” To Phillip, a leader should think of his followers more than himself, especially in the times of pressing concerns. in an ordinary setting, that may be easily said and done, but in difficult situations, it takes a lot of courage!
Courage to say no is another expression of having courage as a leader. For the most part, one can easily give in to any situation by easily saying yes in conformity, even with inner disagreement and a lot of questions with what one said yes to. But for a courageous leader, conformity is compromise if it harms the company. Several of the requests… well… mandate… of the “new captain” Muse were deliberately and courageously turned down by Captain Phillips. Think about risking your life when you oppose these determined-to-kill pirates? Yet, to Phillips, to conform is worse than death.
For a tiny number of four pirates to invade the Cargo ship through a faster skiff (small boat), carrying a ladder they had hastily welded, that in itself is a big dream! Despite Phillips and his crew’s best efforts, they are able to board and take control of the Maersk Alabama, capturing the captain while most of his crew hides in the ship’s engine room. Think about Muse’s leadership that caused all those impact (negatively). Only a big vision… a big dream can fuel such determination.