“Sully” is absolutely AMAZING!!!  Directed by Clint Eastwood and played by the incomparable Tom Hanks, Sully is the true story of the January 15, 2009 US Airways flight 1549 piloted by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.  After colliding with a flock of Canadian geese, Captain Sullenberger safely glided the plane to rest in the Hudson River.  It is now time to update my The Top 20 Leadership Movies Of The Last 20 Years

The movie chronicles Captain Sullenberger as he simultaneously manages instant celebrity, financial pressures, family issues, PTSD and a government investigation.  It also chronicles the water landing and successful evacuation of all 156 passengers.

The following are 34 Leadership Quotes And Lessons From The Tom Hanks Movie “Sully”.  All quotes are from Captain Sullenberger unless otherwise noted.  Do not miss this film!

  1. Tom Hanks Connects With His Audience – Hanks is the greatest actor of this generation.  My heavens, he even made a star out of a volleyball in Castaway.  Hanks is that good.  He has been popularly featured several times on this site – 21 Leadership Quotes And Lessons From Captain Phillips, 17 Leadership Quotes And Lessons From Bridge Of Spies, and 25 Leadership Quotes And Lessons From Saving Mr. Banks.  One of the things which makes him so good is his ability to come across as an average person.  Hanks is so approachable and plays everyday heroes.
  2. A Crisis Can Happen In An Instant – What seemed like just another flight with a beautiful view of New York City changed dramatically because of a flock of Canadian geese.
  3. Successful Leaders Know What They Are Doing – “It was not a crash.  We knew what we were doing.  It was a forced water landing.”
  4. Leading Through Crisis Takes A Toll On The Leader – Sully suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome.
  5. Leaders Are Often Required To Be Immediately Decisive – After the birds collided with the plane, Sully had to take immediate action.  He said, “There was no time for calculating.”
  6. Leaders Must Own The Results Of Their Decisions – “I bet my life on it.  I’ll do it again.”
  7. Do Not Confuse Exposure With Experience – “Engineers are not pilots.  They were not there.”
  8. “Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time.”
  9. When You Are In Leadership Your Entire Family Is Affected By Your Actions – Captain Sullenberger’s family were immediately hounded by the press after the water landing.
  10. Leaders Never Confuse Activity With Accomplishment – “I did the best I could.”  To which is wife said, “Of course you did.  You saved everyone.”
  11. Leaders Like Being In Control Of Outcomes – “I don’t not like being in control of the process.”
  12. Trust Takes A Lifetime To Build And Can Be Lost In A Moment In Time – “I’ve safely delivered one million passengers over 40 years and tomorrow I’m going to be judged over 208 seconds.”
  13. Successful Leaders Focus On Doing Their Job – “I don’t feel like a hero.  I’m just a man doing a job.”
  14. Successful Leaders Are Continual Learners – As a teenage pilot, Sully’s trainer told him, “A plot never stops acquiring knowledge.”
  15. Successful Leaders Stay Focused – Sully’s trainer also said, “No matter what happens never stop flying the airplane.”
  16. Smart Leaders Find Their Comfort Zone And Play To Their Strengths – Co-pilot Jeff Skiles, played by Aaron Eckhart, said “Life’s easier in the air.”
  17. Leaders Must Not Panic During Times Of Chaos – After the bird strike and with both engines failed, Sully began checking his instruments and working his standard flight system.
  18. Great Leaders Bring People A Sense Of Calm – When the bird strike happened, there was significant concern in the cabin area.  The US Airways flight attendants immediately brought a sense of calm.
  19. Leaders Must Communicate Clearly During Times Of Crisis – “This is the Captain.  Brace for impact.”
  20. During Times Of Crisis Trust Your Training – After getting instructions from the Captain to brace for impact, the flight attendants began screaming in unity to the passengers, “Brace!  Brace!  Brace!  Heads down!  Stay down!”  They had obviously been properly trained and went into action.
  21. During Times Of Crisis Use Brevity In Your Communications – After landing the plane, Sully entered the passenger and said one word, “Evacuate”
  22. To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Serve People Well – After landing, Captain Sullenberger and Officer Skiles went through the cabin handing out life vests, directing passengers and supervising the evacuation.
  23. To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Be Willing To Make Great Personal Sacrifices – Captain Sullenberger was the last one off the plane.  He was the last one off the life rafts into a ferry.  He was the last one off the ferry.
  24. Leaders Comfort Others During Times Of Crisis – A New York city ferry worker told the passengers as they boarded the boat, “No one dies today.”
  25. Great Leaders Focus On Others – When asked how he was doing, Sully said, “I’ll answer that question after counting 155.”
  26. Great Leaders Take The Time Necessary To Properly Prepare – “A delay is better than a disaster”
  27. Great Leadership Is Often Determined By A Defining Moment – A news reporter said, “A man with no time became a man for all-time.”
  28. Food Tastes Better Coming Out Of A Crockpot Than A Microwave – “You can accomplish anything if you’re not in a hurry.”
  29. The Fundamental Role Of Leadership Is To Define Reality – “If you’re looking for human error, make it human.”
  30. Great Leaders Are Not Passive During Times Of Crisis – During the initial time of crisis Captain Sullenberger took control of the aircraft by telling Officer Skiles, “My aircraft.”  Skiles replied, “Your aircraft.”
  31. Successful Leaders Are Generous Leaders – Sully gave credit to his co-pilot, the flight attendants, the passengers, the NYC port authority and police officers.  He said, “We did this together.  We were a team.  We did our job.”
  32. Everything Rises And Falls On Leadership – After doing their investigation, a government official said, “Remove you from the equation and the math fails.”
  33. Nothing Great Happens Without A Team – “It was all of us.”
  34. Leaders Are Focused On Results – “We did it.  We all survived.”

After reading William Langewiesche’s book , Fly By Wire: The Geese, The Glide, The Miracle Of The Hudson, I also wrote 22 Leadership Lessons From Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger On Surviving A Plane Crash.  Make sure you check it out for more insights.


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