The Titanic & The Unethical Behavior Of Leaders

It’s sad but true — the unethical behavior of so-called “leaders” continues to do so much damage. Here is Diane J. Chandler writing at Patheos:

The tragedy of the RMS Titanic reminds me of the tragedy of leaders’ unethical behavior. When tragedy struck the Titanic, so much was left in its devastating wake, including loss of life, destruction, disillusionment, and a sense of betrayal. Broken trust through betrayal, devastated lives, and chaos likewise follow Christian leaders’ unethical behavior.

We know the story all too well. On April 15, 1912 at 11:40 p.m., the Titanic hit a mammoth iceberg enroute from Southhampton, England to New York City. The collision created a jagged hole of between 220-245 feet in the hull of this 46,000-ton behemoth. Water gushed in the vessel at an estimated seven tons per second. Within two hours and forty-minutes, the ship sank after splitting in two.

At departure for its maiden voyage, the Titanic was the largest ship in the world. Employing 3000 shipbuilders for three years, the White Star Line considered the Titanic practically unsinkable.

How could something so powerful and too big to fail end up 2.3 miles beneath the ocean’s surface southeast of Newfoundland? Considering the 2,240 total passengers and crew, roughly two-thirds, or 1503, of them died, leaving only 737 survivors.

What went wrong? Who was responsible for perhaps the most infamous maritime disaster in history? These are the same questions we ask when prominent leaders behave unethically.

After various investigations, a confluence of factors emerged to paint the Titanic as “an accident waiting to happen.” Three primary factors contributed to the disaster: (1) the leader (the captain), (2) followers, and (3) the company/organization itself.


Regarding the leader, Titanic’s captain Edward Smith was considered the most experienced sea captain of his day. He had successfully captained five other previous ships, and his reputation instilled trust in passengers. However, Smith failed to heed the iceberg warnings. Rather than slow down or stop, he proceeded at full speed in a cold, moonless night. It is also thought that Smith caved into pressure from White Star Line’s chairman/director who was onboard and wanted to make record transit time. In his haste to dispatch the life boats, Smith approved their launch, with many seats unfilled. Pride often precedes any expectation of failure.

Read more: Patheos

Image credit: The last known photograph of the Titanic.