Chutzpah according to Frederick Hertzberg

Frederick Irving Herzberg, the American psychologist famous for formulating the job enrichment concept, was in the habit of urging teachers to display greater chutzpah in the classroom. When teachers asked him to define what he meant by chutzpah, he always offered the following parable.

Frederick Hertzberg
Frederick Hertzberg

During the Six-Day War, an Israeli fighter pilot experiences engine trouble over the Mediterranean Sea, and has to land his plane really quickly. His nearest option is a US aircraft carrier. The pilot starts to make a descent, but the aircraft carrier’s control tower calls him off. The pilot keeps descending. The tower threatens him. The pilot ignores the warning, and lands his plane anyway on the aircraft carrier.

The captain of the aircraft carrier rushes up to the plane and starts screaming at the pilot, “What were you thinking? We could have shot you out of the sky.”

The Israeli pilot calmly replies, “Sorry, captain, I thought the ship was one of ours.”

Hertzberg would then turn to the teachers: “Ladies and gentlemen. The Israelis don’t own any aircraft carriers. That pilot’s response was pure chutzpah.”

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