Ethics & Leadership: a short story

June 3, 2022



How we respond in a situation defines our ethics and worldview. In this podcast you will hear two contrastive stories of leadership styles based on the ethics of care and deontology. There are many more ethical approaches that we will discuss in our future podcasts.

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Nippin Anand  00:00

Hello, and welcome to another episode of embracing differences. Today I’m going to talk to you about a very powerful story that came from a seafarer. It was so powerful that I did not even realise until it ended within seven and a half minutes. And I said is that it? Listen to the story and see what you make of it. It’s a story of how we choose to respond in a situation. And what it tells us about our leadership style. And what it tells us about our ethics, which is the starting point for all our decision making. I hope you enjoy this and reflect upon it. And hopefully, I get to hear from you your comments. Here we go.


Capt. Anuj Sheel  00:47

Okay, so tell me a little bit about yourself. Anuj? Yeah, so, um, professionally or personally?


Nippin Anand  00:56

It’s your choice. Yeah.


Capt. Anuj Sheel  00:59

Yeah. So I belong to a family of seafarers. My father, also an ex, senior LPG Master, my brother is also sailing as a master. So somehow, I think it was probably destined for me to join, see, might not have been the initial plan. I wanted to be a pilot, that I think most of the guys wanted to be pilot at that time. But I love the job that I’m doing. You know, for me, a person is a man is defined by the work that he does. And the work that I do, and the job that I do is really, you know, very fulfilling very, very good for me. You know, it’s a very cliched statement, if you tell, you know, people that I love, see, I love the ocean, I love sailing, people really do not buy it, but that’s the truth. You know, I love looking out of the window, you know, every day different colours. I love clicking snapping photographs. So you know, it’s really nice. Most importantly, my family the support that I get from them, you know, it really helps me to sail peacefully, you know, let’s see. Luckily, you know, I will be shortly settling down on a good contract, you know, three on three off, so it will be good. I do the minimum six months, which you know, is required for the taxation purpose in India. And it’s good. So yeah, I joined see exactly, I think, yeah. On the 19th of this month, 20 years at sea. I completed Exactly. That. See. So, from my first lesson, so it’s been good, good going. So far. Everything, a lot of things to learn, good. relationships built along the way. So it’s been nice.


Nippin Anand  02:53

2002 your joint that means? All right. I started in 97. Just five years before you 60s 96 Actually 9595 was my was my first ship as I get it. And then you did your schooling.


Capt. Anuj Sheel  03:13

I was in schooling from from the rubble, no, listen, Joseph. Yeah.


Nippin Anand  03:17

Okay. Okay. Okay. And your nautical schooling was from India,


Capt. Anuj Sheel  03:22

from India on the MK era, you know, Applied Research International. Oh, yeah. From hardship to Masters everything here. I made second mates, masters. Free See, so everything from era


Nippin Anand  03:37

I know that you have given me an understanding of your background and experience. Would you like to what what would you like to talk about now?


Capt. Anuj Sheel  03:48

Yes, we’ll talk about one of these incidents, you know, during the peak of the pandemic that was there, and how it has affected the seafarers on board at that time. And even now, it’s, you know, that effect is still there. Of course, a lot of people have got affected but particularly I’ll be talking about my profession and my background about seafarers.


Nippin Anand  04:16

Please do me. Yes. So love to hear.


Capt. Anuj Sheel  04:20

So this particular incident is, you know, it’s around March of 2020. It was during the peak of the pandemic time when all the countries had started closing their borders. And me along with the few other staff on board had got stuck, you know, on board, you’re not able to sign off. They were no flights, the all the borders were shut. And we were out for already a few months at sea and eagerly waiting to go home. So I had a second engineer a Turkish second An engineer with me. And he had recently become a dad. And I could really see, you know, the word frustration, you know, I could see his face he, he wouldn’t really tell me, you know, but he would just come and say, Captain, when when will we go home? You know, I am? I had, I had no answer, I had no answer. But, you know, I talked with the company, the company said, you know, it’s not in our hands, the borders, the countries have shut. So even I was, like, I told you, I had to go home. So I started contacting the Indian Embassy, you know, in Spain, in France in Niederlande, for my part, and for second engineer, I contacted, contacted his Turkish Embassy in Spain. Luckily, his embassy came back immediately, you know, there was a very nice lady, the ambassador was there, she rang me up immediately, because the bottom there, my phone number was there on the ship. And she said, Yeah, we read your email, and we came to know that there is a Turkish national onboard who wants to go home, but there are no flights, please give us more details about your shedule. And we would like to, you know, do help out our citizen. So, you know, I was very, very happy and very glad that, you know, an ambassador from one of the embassies, you know, Turkish is calling, so I immediately call up the second engineer was down in the engine room, you know, because she wanted some details, and then they both also talk the ambassador and the second engineer, and then we started working on it, the shedule of the vessel was not fixed, you know, where we will go where we will not go. So, it took around one week or so to you know, organise this thing. The good part was the company was always supporting, you know, what, what I as a master on what I am doing independently, because a lot of the companies don’t give you freedom to, you know, they’re micromanaging at such a level these days that the master has no say, or authority in anything that he does on board. But luckily, for me, and the second engineer, you know, I had full support of the company. So, we, I got in touch with the ambassador, and then eventually, you know, we managed to secure a seat for him in a military plane from Spain, you know, they had those planes were flying, you know, some essential services were being arranged to, you know, from one part of the country to the other flight from Spain to Turkey. So, we managed to divert the vessel to Carta, Hana, and Spain, you know, and then we call the boat, he was received by the three persons from the embassy at the jetty, carrying nice flag, you know, Turkish flag, really, he really felt, you know, like, the President or something, he got such a special and such a nice treatment, escorted all the way, you know, taken all the way to the airport, you know, not normal, you know, you don’t like check in and all was, you know, a very separate gate and a separate everything. And he kept, he kept on updating me about it. And, finally, he got that seat on the plane, and, you know, he could go home and, of course, informed that I inform the company about it, and they were really very, very happy. You know, they said, at least we’ve managed to get somebody home in time. And, you know, he sent the photographs with his wife and his kid, and every, all sending me thanks, you know, messages and all and the company really appreciating it. So it was it was very nice. You know, it’s because I could, I took the effort, and I could do something for my crew. I was I was very satisfied, you know, that. Whatever I could do in my capacity as a master. I did too, you know? Yeah. So that that’s the gist of it.


Nippin Anand  09:20

Wow, this was a story that lasted for less than six minutes. And I was absolutely taken aback with my own self, because it ended so well. And I realised at the end of it, that perhaps I felt there was something missing in this story is that it is at all it’s supposed to be a happy ending. And then I asked myself, am I so focused on a deficit conversation, that I have lost the appreciation for? A city simple story like this. And it made me wonder, how do I articulate this story. And before I do that, I want to tell you an alternative story of how seafarers have been treated during the pandemic. And one of the stories that comes to mind is a seafarer who writes to his company and says that he’s been on the ship for 10 and a half months already, and he’s going insane and he needs to get home now. And the response from the office is, oh, yes, we have been doing everything in our capacity. But the ships wides plan keeps changing. And so some of the boats don’t allow seafood seafarers to be to be disembarked. So we’re having challenges. We’re having difficulties, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. But I think what’s missed in this contrastive way of dealing with the Seafarer is that too often we get, we fall back upon duty processes, being objective, being impartial in responding to people in difficult situations, when they are not looking for a solution, always, yes, solutions are important, but what they’re looking for is somebody who can listen to them, who can give them a listening ear. That’s all they want. Of course, this was a very exceptional situation where somebody rose above the bureaucracy, and did everything in their capacity to get the Seafarer home, which was a very, very exceptional or unique moment. And on top of that, imagine having three people from the embassy waiting on the jetty with with a flag from the country, and making and then escorting the person back home, which is very, very symbolic. It has a lot of weightage for for somebody who has been stuck on the ship, and feels like a third world citizen, who nobody cares about. But that’s not that’s not the most important thing, even if the embassy was not successful. To get his the Seafarer back home. The important thing is that they responded in this situation, somebody thought that this was important to give a phone call. And this is what we miss in our leadership today. We are so focused on Aria. So our starting point really is the ethics of deontology, as we call it, is everything is about what is my duty in this instance, what does the process say? Can I be objective and impartial? But no, if you turn it around like the the lady from the Embassy did, she saw it from the perspective of femininity, the perspective of care. She saw in this person, her own self, she didn’t see a seafarer, she saw her husband, she saw her father she saw would be father or a newly born baby who hid this father was so wanting to meet. And I think, to her the most important thing was the interpersonal relationship between the father and the newborn baby. And I think that is something that we see completely missing, whether it’s the old view, or the new view, or the hub, or any contemporary safety science. Is that is that? How do you define your ethic. And if you don’t define your ethic, everything else becomes mechanistic. You can repeat this process, it’s repeatable. You can be sure that at the end of it, nobody can raise a finger on you. It’s compliance. But then my question is, where is the person? Where have you addressed the needs of the person, that unique person who was caught in that unique moment? Have you actually responded to that? I would leave you with those thoughts, and I would welcome your opinion on that. Thank you. Now for the best part. If you really enjoyed listening to this podcast, and want to think reflect and dance with different perspectives, yes, dance with different perspectives, follow me on LinkedIn, on my company page Novellus Solutions, or email me at nippin.anand@novellus.solutions, and I will add you to our mailing list. There is a great lineup of events planned in the next few months, so I wouldn’t want you to dismiss them at all. As usual to all you curious people. Thank you for wanting to know more than what you knew yesterday. It’s both very rare and refreshing to find true learners in this world. I wish you a pleasant day and night. Goodbye