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The Quality Of Leadership

The Quality Of Leadership
January 10
13:14 2020

The Quality Of Leadership

By: Neri O. Briceño –

Dennis A. Muilenburg led the Boeing Corporation as its CEO from 2015 to 2019 and was considered one of the most influential persons in the global aviation industry. Boeing, an aviation behemoth with over 100 years of doing business and with an estimated revenue of $101.12 billion is probably more powerful and richer than most Third World countries.

Muilenburg made an estimated $23 million in 2018, a combination of a base salary, bonuses and stock options. His primary responsibility was to effectively and efficiently manage this global operation and to ensure maximum shareholder return on their investment. For the most part Muilenburg did this extremely well, growing Boeing’s global revenue under his tenure despite strong competition from European aviation companies like Airbus. The CEO, however, made a huge misstep dealing with the 737 Max which had serious operational problems which resulted in two crashes, one in Indonesia and the other in Ethiopia.

Investigations revealed that Boeing and the CEO were aware that there was some difficulty with its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System after the Indonesia incident, and yet failed to ground the aircraft which resulted in a further crash in Ethiopia. Both accidents resulted in a combined 346 deaths. Muilenburg would later resign in December 2019, essentially taking responsibility for the incident which happened under his leadership. Muilenburg’s situation is not unique, but rather commonplace for leadership positions. Men and women across the globe have tendered their resignations when failure has happened under their watch. Even powerful political leaders have done the same. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance Sr. did it over operation Eagle Claw, the failed rescue attempt of US hostages held in Iran in 1980, and British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after the failed Brexit vote.

The unofficial global protocol in any corporate setting is that if there is a dramatic failure, someone takes responsibility and steps down. That memo, however, has still not reached corporate Belize and even less so the upper leadership of either BWS or BEL. The Caye Caulker water and power failure debacles recently have proven that nationalization does not work because sometimes the wrong people are placed in crucial positions, not so much because of their capabilities but because of their connections. This was a pure case of costly professional incompetence on the part of those who are tasked to lead these companies.

One of their primary tasks is to ensure that the most important factor in this equation, the customers, are served and provided with value for dollar service. Caye Caulker appears to have been avoidable at every level had the adequate steps been taken, preparations been made, and operational needs addressed. This is an extremely costly lesson for both utility companies and could not have come at a worse time during the tourism cycle of the island. Many residents and businesses on the island are suffering and will continue to suffer long after power and water is completely restored. The opportunity cost will likely run into the millions and the reputation of the island to provide reliable power and water to its international visitors will more than likely be in jeopardy.

But the obvious question is what comes next? After all the press conferences and apologies, what happens to those who lost revenue and livelihood? What will the industry do to restore in small part the touristic reputation not only of the island itself but also that of the country, to be able to provide the basic needs to its visitors? This incident was a travesty and not one that should be taken lightly because the responsibility for it has to fall on someone and he or she needs to man up, take stock and resign. Nothing less is expected in a national corporate setting like a state-owned company like BEL and BWS.

It’s all about the people!!!!

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