Initiative ’17 – Part #3: Prepared to Lead

I just completed the rough draft of my fourth article in this series. I was sitting there thinking to myself that I didn’t really have a clearly defined “mission” to this initiative. Those of you that have been visiting the site for a while know I am a big believer in defining the mission of anything, especially when it comes to gear & equipment. But, the same mission identification should, and normally does, apply to every article I put up on this site. But, such was not the case with the Initiative ’17 series. I apologize. And, I’ve corrected that with this article.

As I was saying…I was reviewing in my mind the articles that I had written so far and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was writing articles that would make you a leader when there were emergencies, disasters, or a grid-down event.

There will be people who have some food storage, maybe a gun or two and some ammo, and there might even be some folks with radios and solar charging capability. But, who will know how to assign people to cover the four basic areas of organization of an incident? Who will know what the proper priorities are for any emergency, disaster, or a grid-down event? Who is going to know how to spot folks who pose as threats or are prospective assets? Who are going to be the people who understand Situational Awareness, Tunnel Vision, Complacency, Normalcy Bias, etc?

Well, that answer is you! Yup, plain and simple…you will be that person.

Why not someone else? Well, maybe. But, if not you, who? And why not you?

What if your church, neighborhood, or community already has leadership? Really. What qualifies a person to be a leader?

What does your neighborhood leader do for a living? What training, knowledge or experience does that person have that you would suddenly trust them when the world falls apart?

“Ah, my church leadership will run everything!” Really? And exactly how will they do that?

“They are called of God and will follow Him!” Really? So that person, without any training or experience, will suddenly be able to have God just tell them what to do? What if God tells them to organize their congregation to deal with whatever the calamity is? Will you be prepared to lead one of those areas of effort if asked? What if your church leader needs to maintain his position of spiritual leadership and turn over the more temporal needs to someone else…who would that leader be? Would you be prepared to be that leader?

So my point is, I want to make sure I am providing tools for you, to enable you to step up and be a leader regardless of your situation.

What makes me qualified to do that? Well, my professional background of well over 30 years providing emergency services all over the US and even internationally. Or, my 1000’s upon 1000’s of hours of formal training during that same 30+ years. Or my 1000’s of hours of research in these subjects outside of all of that training. Then again…maybe it is just my desire to sound like a know-it-all.

Whatever the case is, you may well find some valuable information that will help you be that leader that people will need with it hits the fan.

What is Leadership?

Ah, there is a problem here. If you look online you will find hundreds of different definitions of leadership. And then you will find 1000’s of articles about what makes a good leader. And, for the most part all of it sucks. Yup, they aren’t good enough. So now what?

Have you ever experienced a good leader? How about dealing with a bad leader?

So after contemplating that for a minute are you starting to see a picture of what makes a good leader and what makes a bad leader?

So, now define “leadership” if you please…

I worked on that task for quite a while…and for the most part I came up empty handed. But, then I started thinking…what if people don’t see a need for a leader? Wow! That hadn’t dawned on me, that there wasn’t an actual need for a leader. So imagine this, a group of 20 people standing around knowing that something needs to be done. OK, now imagine that picture with no one stepping up and making something happen.

Yeah, pretty ugly picture. So, for this part of the conversation we will imagine an emergency, disaster, or a grid-down event has taken place and there is a group of 20 folks meeting in the neighborhood. And someone says, “Well, what do we do now?” That establishes the need for a leader.

Back to defining “leadership”, have you come up with anything yet?

Mine was simple, overly simple actually, but spot on if you ask me…

The action of leading a group of people.

Notice I didn’t define a leader, just the term (verb) leadership.

But, now that we have the foundation of what leadership is, we can move on to defining the traits of a good leader. However, I want to work backwards. What are the traits of a bad leader? Of course we are working in the context of emergencies, disasters, or a grid-down event.

Here are some of the traits of a bad leader that I have seen in the military and firefighting in my career:

  • Someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about; either stupid or ignorant.
  • A person who is disengaged. They show up, tell you to do something, and then disappears until the next visitation and order.
  • A person who makes decisions in a vacuum, or from the top, and doesn’t understand conditions on the ground.
  • A person who won’t actually listen to or take advice from peers or subordinates.
  • A “pretty boy” or “politician”.
  • A person that always “one-ups” you in a conversation or always has to have the last word.
  • A micro-manager.
  • Almost worst of all…someone who won’t make a decision.
  • Worst of all…someone who won’t back their people, even when those people make a mistake.

Now, what I have seen of good leaders:

  • Someone who listens to his people and takes their advice.
  • A person who trusts his subordinates and empowers them to make decisions.
  • A person who always passes the credit to his people.
  • A person who accepts the blame when things goes wrong.
  • Someone who looks out for the benefit and welfare of the people they lead.
  • Someone who is willing to make a decision and stand by it.
  • A person who knows what they are doing and talking about…”been there, done that” experienced.

What does your lists look like when you are posed with the questions; 1) What does a bad leader look like? 2) What does a good leader look like?

I was having a discussion with my peer at work the other day, we were talking about our boss. We are amazingly together in our view of our boss. Basically…he sucks as a leader. Nice guy, but he is a terrible leader. What makes him so?

  1. He is disengaged with our department and the people in it.
  2. He is all about himself and his advancement, he just wants us to do our job.
  3. He is gone most of the time.
  4. He doesn’t ever (or very rarely) express appreciation to his folks for what they do, even when it is above and beyond what is normally expected of them.
  5. He is a “black hole” of communication…communications go to him, and nothing rarely comes out. He sees information as power…and doesn’t like to share it until it is needed.
  6. Anytime a suggestion or solution is offered by one of the guys, he then relates that is exactly what he was thinking, or that is what he was going to suggest but was waiting to see if anyone else would come up with it.

And so, what exactly is the end result of such poor leadership on his part?

The folks in our department don’t respect him. They don’t trust him. They see him as someone only out for themselves. And how do you think that affects the people and morale in the department?

Are you a leader? Might you be called to be a leader? Might you be the only logical choice to be a leader when an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event hits?

Personally, I think you would be the logical leader, the most qualified leader, the most prepared to lead.

Summary –

Initiative ’17 now has a mission…Preparing you to lead when an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event hits.

Here is what I will ask of you…do not judge yourself at this point. Let’s get through these articles and absorb the information that I will present. Learn whatever you can from each article. Let each one sink in to your mind and allow your mind to form pictures of what may happen and how you would react to it…if you were the leader.

YOU can do this! When the world falls apart, and I’ve seen that happen hundreds of times, people are capable of amazing acts of courage and bravery. I have seen people do almost unbelievable things to help each other out. I have seen the absolute best of people committing acts of amazing compassion and service. What I have also seen every single time…people wanting, even begging, for leadership. People are willing to march into hell itself with buckets of water if the right person will lead them.

Now, let me go religious on you for just a short minute. I thought of a man, a simple man, plainly dressed, humble family origins, little education, no worldly means, no fancy job or profession. That person established the largest religious organization the world has ever seen. And it has lasted, actually grown and flourished, for 2000 years. His name was Jesus Christ. And how did he do it?

You could give many answers to that question, but I think one reason that rates right up at the top is His desire and ability to serve others. He healed people. He fed people. He taught people, He listened to people. He washed people’s feet. He comforted people when they needed it. He served.

Sure, a cynical man might say…Yeah, but they killed him and his 11 best friends. Yes, that they did. But, I ask you this, would you say Christ succeeded as a leader, or failed?

For me, I say He was an unqualified success. And He did it by serving. And the more I think of it, the more I realize a great leader is one who serves his people with a sincere heart. Is that the only attribute a person needs? Of course not! A good leader has many attributes that we listed earlier. A great leader has all those traits…and then serves his people through humility, love, and sincerity.

Let’s work together over the coming weeks to develop in ourselves…Prepared to Lead.


Please share with me topics you would like me to cover during Initiative ’17 –

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One thought on “Initiative ’17 – Part #3: Prepared to Lead

  1. Pingback: Initiative ’17 – Part #4: Leader’s Intent | A.H. Trimble - Emergency preparedness information for disasters and grid-down

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