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Leadership does not only exist in the corner office. Oftentimes it surfaces in the middle of a catastrophe. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Chilean mine in the weeks and months following the Aug. 5 collapse.
“Corporate America has a lot to learn from the Chilean miners,” said Ron Dufresne, Ph.D., assistant professor of management at Saint Joseph’s University who studies leadership. “One critical takeaway from this experience is the power of vulnerability,” he said. “Leadership happens because of vulnerability.”
The 33 miners, rescued after more than two months underground, relied on food rationing and other survival strategies to endure their time entombed in the mine. Most importantly, Dufresne said, they relied on democratic leadership within their groups.
During their time underground, the men divided themselves into groups. Each group had an appointed leader who communicated with relief efforts above ground. The men depended on each other’s strengths for additional leadership. One miner offered spiritual support, another coordinated work schedules, one rationed food supplies, and another managed communications.
Dufresne said the miners have offered corporate America very clear lessons on leadership:
1. We are all capable of contributing to leadership.
2. Good companies prepare in advance for a crisis.
3. Recognize that the senior leadership team is not omnipotent.
4. Learn from others in your company.
5. Listen to those closest to the work, including your customers.

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