The previous two parts of these series of articles have described some of the most important leadership skills. This final installment will deal with general leadership principles and what is known as the “big picture”.
WHAT IS IT REALLY LIKE
In most of Canadian blue collar professions such as vehicle repair, construction, oil drilling and servicing and so on, all of the emphasis is placed on people understanding the mechanics of their jobs. An employee who joins an oil well drilling crew for the first time is taught how to use tools, how to be safe and how to make the machinery run. As he advances he is taught more about the tools and is given more complex tasks. Eventually he makes his way up to the position of the driller. Now he understands the machinery on an expert level. There probably isn’t much on his rig he hasn’t taken apart and repaired and has the experience to be labeled as valuable and experienced employee. He is also responsible for the five people he has on his crew yet has received no training in what makes people tick, what makes people want to do a good job, and what makes them want to be efficient. The problem here is that if his predecessor did nothing more than scream at his people he will pass those “skills” on to others. Today our expert supervisor may be an expert in the operation of the machinery but people hate working or him and immediately leave as soon as they find a chance to do so. Not to mention the higher rate of injuries that happen because most of his people function in survival mode most of the time.
Most workers who spent time in such work environments cannot break the chain of bad treatment of subordinates and pass it on as soon as they get into a position of supervision. The advantage the worker has is that he gets to take a break after his shift is over. He goes home to his wife and kids and that makes him forget about the crap he has to deal with at work and perhaps gives him renewed strength to get up and do it the next day. After all he is doing it for the kids.
BAD SITUATION MADE WORSE
In a disaster scenario however the situation is completely different. There is no place to run or hide and the catastrophe is here to stay. In this case, bad leadership may turn the survival group into a cowering bunch of victims, it may start infighting within the group, and it may break it up completely. All of these possibilities will destroy the best-laid survival plans. In the business and corporate world, leadership seems something reserved only for the elite. The very top of the corporate pyramid. The lower in rank and in position we go, the less emphasis there is on decent treatment and motivation of people. Coincidentally, it is here at the lower level where the largest number of contributors to the operation are located…the base of the pyramid. All structures with a weak base eventually fall.
SOBERING AND PRACTICAL EXAMPLE
In our one day basic disaster preparedness course, students are given the following scenario…
You made it. You, your family and your group have successfully left the disaster damaged part of the country and are isolated from further damage at your alternate location. So far, everything went well and everyone is settling in to ride out the remainder of the calamity in a safe place. You have food, plenty of water and a team you can count on. Then one day your people spot movement outside of your perimeter. They find a thirteen year old girl. She is crying and says she got separated from her parents two days ago and hasn’t seen them since. She has an open wound on her forearm. Do you as the leader offer her help, let her into your retreat and risk that she might infect the remainder of your group with a possible disease she might be carrying…? Do you offer medical help, food and water and risk depleting your own supplies faster than anticipated…? Will you risk that she’s not a “lookout” for a group of armed thugs who are waiting in the bush for her signal at which point they intend to move in and rob you of all of your supplies…? Do you just tell her to move on and let her die from disease or starvation…? Can you live with that…? How will you explain that to the government that will probably become restored in the future…? How will you explain that to your twelve year old niece who saw her and was really looking forward to having a new friend? How will you explain that to those in your group who are thinking that they just witnessed you sign the death warrant of an innocent child…?
The answers to these questions are not easy. But they are questions that everyone in the group absolutely must have answered before they find themselves in those scenarios. It is the role of the leader to ensure that everyone is onboard and it is the role of the leader to accept responsibility for the consequences when he learns that the answers were not correct.
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
There are many who believe that they make outstanding leaders and managers and as mentioned before some will have natural predisposition for a deep understanding of the above principles. These people should seek to learn more about this wide topic and perhaps study those who have proven to be great leaders in history. (These studies by the way, will immediately exclude about 99% of all modern day political “leaders”). In the end, all aspiring leaders should remember one very important fact:
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a follower. Leader without followers is nothing, just like a follower without a leader is nothing. There is absolutely everything wrong however, with making assumptions and finding out you were wrong at a time when other people depend on you!
Thank you for taking the time to read the final part of our three-part Leadership series. The topic of leadership seems to be completely ignored when it comes to disaster survival and preparedness. It must be approached however with as much emphasis as firearms, knives and proper mindset. This is because it will be the leaders who will organize the new way of living should we experience a collapse. It will be the leaders that everyone will look up to and work towards either worthy goals or ugly and dark future.
It should also be pointed out, that a leader can be replaced at any time. All followers will always outnumber the leader and therefore it is they who have the power to “change leadership”. This doesn’t have to be done through violent means. When the followers simply begin to “unplug” from whatever system they are a part of, it won’t be long and the leadership will find itself with nothing and no one to lead. You wouldn’t want your teeth fixed by someone who has never had a formal training in dentistry. You wouldn’t want your car fixed by someone who doesn’t know the difference between a spanner and a monkey wrench. And you wouldn’t want to be defended in court by someone who has never seen the inside of a court room. Choose your leadership the same way for your good and for the good of your family.
The ultimate task of leaders and managers is to draw the best out of people. In doing so, the leader will find that all objectives are accomplished more easily, efficiently and safely.