Tragic Change in Poland

Polish President Lech Kaczynski died in a horrific plane crash along with about 100 other high ranking Polish officials on Friday. According to the New York Times, there is now speculation about the pilot’s state of mind at the time of the crash. The article provides an insight into the organizational culture created by Mr. Kaczynski’s leadership style. Two years ago Mr. Kaczynski got into an argument with the pilot flying his plane and demanded that the pilot land despite dangerous conditions. The pilot disagreed and diverted to neighboring airport. Mr. Kaczynski then threatened the pilot saying, “If someone decides to become a pilot, he cannot be fearful … we shall deal with this matter when we get home.” Actually, that pilot was not disciplined but apparently suffered depression in the wake of the incident.

There is speculation that this incident two years ago affected the judgment of the pilot last Friday, who may have tried to land despite being advised by air traffic control not to do so. The speculation is that the pilot may have thought that if he did not land he would be chastised by the president. We know the tragic outcome.

By all accounts Mr. Kaczynski was a pretty tough guy—a hero of the Solidarity movement in Poland’s resistance against the Soviet Union – but he was not a pilot. It seems, however, that his ability to intimidate a highly experienced professional may have literally brought the ship down. How many other tough guy bosses create a culture in their organizations in which experienced professionals feel intimidated to make decisions against their better judgment? Lehman Brothers, Enron, AIG, GM all come to mind!


Ben Nash is the editor-in-chief of He is the founder and chief developer of the blog, providing tech/design support as well as tips and book reviews. Ben has held many interesting jobs in his professional career, including: barista, landscaper, public policy intern, barista (again), professional horse wrangler, ski lift attendant (aka "liftie"), political science teaching assistant, marketing and sales assistant, and an ecommerce/web d...

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