Why they're a Crisis Leader:
The majority of people I interviewed for this project were selected because of my observations and insights about them after they made their name as a crisis leader.
I had never followed them into battle or benefit from their leadership first hand. I relied on the quality of their character to decide whether or not to request their involvement.
This interview is different because I've experienced Country’s leadership first-hand on many occasions.
As an urban search and rescue disaster responder, “Country” was one of my leaders in ‘battle,’ and I have looked to him for guidance many times, even after our journeys took us in different directions.
As you'll see, his leadership style is on-point, direct, and effective.
And that pragmatic approach to crisis leadership is well suited for disaster response, too.
Early in my disaster response career, I was tasked to go on a mission that involved lots of moving parts and a fair amount of risk. My concern for those complexities overshadowed any confidence I had in my training to do the job, and Country detected that waning confidence.
He pulled me aside, put his arm around me and simply said: “go do what you do, Mike, you’ve got this.”
And just like that, I was mentally fortified and ready to slay dragons.
It’s been said that if you can’t describe something simply, then you don’t understand it very well.
That sentiment has never been truer than when listening to Country, particularly when he’s in command-mode. He says in one sentence, what the rest of us may spend an hour to describe.
I’ve had the good fortune to serve under a few great leaders in my life, and Country is one of the best.
#1 "What is a Crisis Leader?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What is a Crisis Leader?"
So what is a crisis leader?
My opinion, and my version of a crisis leader is someone who is calming.
So whatever the situation is you know it's not gonna get worse. And it's that person's opportunity to make it better.
#2 "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
So, an example for me for crisis leadership.
There was an incident where a gentleman was mad at the IRS, and decided to fly his plane into that building. And, a lot of chaos, a lot of stuff there.
But I felt like when I showed up, things calmed down, and I took the time to gather good information. And, in the end, the death toll was minimal, but it could've been a lot worse.
But, we got there, took charge and calmed everything down.
It didn't change the fact that the fire was burning. It didn't change the fact that the building was destroyed, or there were deaths, but everything started kinda calm down, made better.
#3 "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
Some of the things that I wished that I know now that I wish I knew before was to make sure you understand the difference between a bad decision and a decision you don't want to make.
Sometimes, things are just bad, but that doesn't change the fact that you still have to make the decision.
You don't like the decision, but you gotta make it anyway, and sometimes that gets confused of, people confuse that with a bad decision, and it's not, it's just a decision that you wish you didn't have to make, and you just don't like it.
#4 "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
Some ways to improve your crisis leadership is you have to become a voracious, and my right term is reader.
You have got to read.
You must read about everybody else's crisis. Crisises, crisis, not quite sure which.
But and stuff that is not in your lane.
Read about the Ebola problem in Zaire.
Read about the water problem in Flint.
Read about the plastics problem in Argentina.
Whatever it is, I said go read, and you have to read and reread, and look at some of those lessons.
NASA called them predictable surprises.
When you read it, I made it a point to always read at my fire service the line of duty death fatality reports. And as you're reading it, with the hindsight, you can see where it's gonna end.
Do the same thing with those other crisis around the world, and different, I don't care if it's the Boeing 737 Max crisis, read about it.
There's things to learn, and that'll make you better.
#5 "Who is a Crisis Leader that influenced your career?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "Who is a crisis leader that influenced your career?"
So, a crisis leader that had kinda inspired me, and look, there's a bunch I can read about.
Sullenberger did his thing, there's General Mattis did his things, there's all those you can read about.
But from a personal note, it's probably my father because we, and I say we, have always been accused of thinking outside of the box, but his version is he didn't know there was a box.
So he had never started that way.
And he worked for IBM and he retired from there, but when there were problems they always gave it to him to try to go solve. And he remembered that they weren't his problems, it's never your problem, and that you have to be, make decisions that make it better, not worse.
And he trusted his instinct, and he trusted his people and he trusted his gut, very calm, doesn't get excited.
And calmness breeds calmness, so it's worked out well.