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Monday, 10 October 2016

An analysis of leadership in the film "The 33"

   The film entitled "The 33" commemorates events that took place in a Chilean copper and gold mine in the Atacama Desert between August 5, 2010 and October 13, 2010.  Thirty-three miners were trapped underground when a large part of the mine collapsed, blocking the way out.  The details of how they survived and were ultimately rescued are shared in this 127 minute movie.
   Since I am taking a course on leadership, I took note of how both the miners and those on the surface demonstrated leadership in this story.  I realize that not everything dramatized in the movie actually happened, but I still think we can learn some things about what leaders do and do not do.
Underground Leaders
   Without individuals taking leadership after the mine collapse, the outcome would have been much different.  In the film, we have the shift leader Luis making sure all the men made it to "The Refuge" because it was the safest place.  He had earlier tried to speak with his boss about broken mirrors in the mine that were indicators of shifting rock and thus danger to the workers, but his warnings were ignored.
   When the men realize that the radio is broken, the first aid kit is not fully equipped, the ladders in the ventilation shafts do not go up to the very top and that there is only food enough for three days, they are ready to despair.  Their company has not taken good care of them to this point, so how could they expect anyone to try to rescue them?  At this point Mario speaks with conviction and says, "I choose to believe that we will get out of here."  He is not the shift leader, but he inspires confidence in the other men.  They entrust him with the key to the food cupboard and accept the rationing plan he makes in order that the canned tuna and other staples will last as long as possible.
   During the time between being discovered alive and actually being taken out of the mine, the media finds out about Mario's leadership role.  He is offered an exclusive book deal; when the other miners find out about this they become upset.  In their minds, he has lost his status as a leader because they feel betrayed.  However, Mario ultimately determines not to sign the book deal and tells the others he has not done so because he wants them all to remain "brothers."  Mario, then, shows himself to be an ethical leader they can trust.
   Jose is another leader, a spiritual leader.  He prays with the men and counsels them.  When one of them is caught in the ravages of alcohol withdrawl, Jose is gentle with him and helps him overcome this demon.
Leaders on the Surface
   The first so-called leader we encounter is the boss at the Copiapo mine.  This man had the power to prevent the trauma that these miners endured.  He was given clear evidence that seismic activity was making the area unsafe, but all he could think of was quotas of copper and gold he wanted the workers to extract.  He was so focused on production numbers that he failed to see the human beings being placed at risk.  After the collapse, he makes excuses and begins to name the psychological problems that some of the miners have, hinting that they will kill each other before any rescue plan can be expedited.  This person is a leadership position loses his authority as the government takes over the rescue operation.
   When the Minister of Mining, Laurence Golborne, addresses the Chilean president, they discuss that the mine is privately owned. There is no legal obligation for them to get involved, but the moral obligation is given weight.  The Minister of Mining goes to the site to assess the situation.  By seeing the human face of the family members calling for answers, he stops at nothing to try to reach the trapped miners.  When the chief engineer tells him there is only a 1% chance that the drills will be able to reach The Refuge due to the drills veering off course because of depth and the hardness of the rock they are going through, the Minister of Mining says they try anyways.  When the chief engineer has given up because none of the attempts thus far had yielded any results and because he can't imagine the miners could still be alive after so many days underground, the Minister of Mining urges the workers to learn from the mistakes of earlier attempts and try again.
   The Minister of Mining and the Chief Engineer both dedicate weeks of their lives to this effort. They forego sleep and the comforts of home because they are bound to the mission of rescuing every last man from the depths of the mine before it becomes too late.  The willingness to accept help and expertise from a variety of nations contributes to the happy result that not one man was lost.
Divine Intervention
   The rescue of the Chilean miners could not have happened without the leaders among the miners themselves or the leaders of the search and rescue operation from the surface.  Nevertheless, the miners themselves and the President of Chile acknowledged that the happy ending for these miners was none other than God's miraculous intervention.  The miners turned to God in their time of desperation.  Family members and strangers prayed that these men would be found and brought back to the surface.  The miners wrote on one of the walls "God was with us." Priest Juan Carlos Sansadrai, who was ministering to families in Chile reported "It's been a trying time, but faith can move mountains" [1].

[1]   "Faith Plays Key Role for Trapped Chilean Miners, Families," CNN. 9 September 2010. from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2016.

 

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