FIVE INTEGRITY LESSONS FROM THE CHEPECOENSE TRAGEDY

Until a couple weeks ago, only hardcore soccer fans knew about the Chapecoense team outside of Brazil. Now the world knows them, but not for the quality of their sportsmanship, but because most of their players, coaches, and executives tragically died in a plane crash near Medellín, Colombia. Initial evidence paints the unthinkable for anyone flying: they ran out of fuel. The “Chape” team perished due to lack of integrity by the company in care of their safety.

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IT BOILS DOWN TO INTEGRITY

The small charter company decided to cut corners and save money by flying nonstop, leaving no margin for the unexpected. When the unexpected happened, it cost most passengers and crew members their lives. From this avoidable disaster, we can learn at least five sobering lessons of integrity valuable to our leadership.

  1. Love of Money is Dangerous. Initial evidence suggests this tragedy may have been the result of greed. They could have planned the flight with a stop, made an unplanned technical stop, or declared a fuel emergency when fuel became too low, but each of these decisions would have cost money. When the love of money becomes the main driving force for leadership, we risk losing everything.

  2. Breaking Integrity Means Others Suffer. 200 million Brazilians are in mourning, Colombians are in shock, 71 families are grieving the loss of their loved ones, and the only six survivors are fighting for their lives. Leaders are responsible for others, and when they break integrity, many may suffer.

  3. Sometimes Disregarding Integrity Leaves No Way Out. Once the fuel was gone, the fate of that plane and everyone inside was sealed. The same can happen to projects, organizations, movements, and lives when leaders disregard integrity.

  4. Taking Shortcuts Does Not Make You Invincible. Evidence shows this plane flew outside safety margins before. It seems like they got away with it several times, until the one day they didn’t. When leaders break integrity and get away with it, they may think they are invincible – but one day they will realize they are not.

  5. Accountability Only Works If You Listen. One of the most shocking facts about this disaster is that someone responsible for approving the flight plan realized they were flying without enough fuel and warned the company and the pilot. They chose not to heed the warnings and suffered the consequences.


The story of the Chapecoense team was a true “Cinderella story.” They were a small team from a mid-size city with no tradition in the sport. The team was on their way to the game of their lives, on the brink of fulfilling their vision. One decision to break integrity cut that vision short, and turned dream into tragedy.

Even if we never fly an actual airplane, we have a tremendous responsibility for those we lead. We must be fully committed to integrity, accountability, and finishing well in life and ministry.

 

ACTION QUESTION

Is there an area of the "flight plan" for your life and leadership that needs a second look?