But that does not deter management professors and trainers from drawing 'lessons' in leadership all the time. There are lessons from literature, from movies, from the Bhagvad Gita, from war. The implication is that it is possible to distil from various experiences a set of ideas as to what leadership is all about, ideas that any manager can then practise. I recall the Indian cricket team being put through a commando training module. There are leadership programs where you climb mountains, trek across the countryside, spend time in camps and so on.
How refreshing, then, to come across a piece in FT that debunks this whole idea. Stefan Stern ran into a survivor from a plane crash in the Andes mountains. Pedro Algorta was one of 16 (out of 45 people on board) who survived 72 days in the worst possible conditions- -30 C temperatures, avalanches, having to eat the flesh of dead passengers.
He then did his MBA at Stanford and went on to become a successful CEO. You might think the ordeal he went through and the heroism he had displayed earlier contributed. Not at all! Algorta attached very little importance to his experiences and never even talked about these to anybody.
If there were no great 'lessons' from Algorta's ordeal- at any rate, lessons that contributed to his business success- surely a three day mountain climb or cross-country trek is not going to produce the next Jack Welch.
So why the silence until now? “I was busy being a chief executive,” Mr Algorta told me. Did you ever speak to colleagues about your experiences? No, he said. Did you draw on them consciously? I never thought about it, Mr Algorta maintained.
Which leaves me struggling with a paradox. Of course, those events of October to December 1972 were extraordinary. It must have been a terrifying, shattering experience. It was a privilege to hear about it at first hand.
But even Mr Algorta suggests that, for him personally, these events had no specific impact on his business career. (You may or may not believe this. But it is what he says.) He got on with the life he had been planning to lead before the crash happened. And, while many people around the world will queue up to hear his story, Mr Algorta himself remains disarmingly modest. “I’m not a guru, I’m not a prophet,” he told me.