Many years ago I read a book about the old west. The story was about a cavalry scout who came upon an Indian hunting party. Once he was discovered, they gave chase and he was forced to run for his life. His horse was much faster than their ponies so he had at least one advantage. He was also fortunate that they had no guns, just bows. As he rode he was able to wrap a blanket around his back to give some protection from arrows. It was many miles to safety so he quickly planned his escape. He rode his horse as fast as he could run for a mile or more to build up a sizeable lead on the Indians. Once he felt safe, he slowed the pace and let them gradually catch up. He repeated this process time and again, which preserved his horse’s stamina. He finally made it back to safety and immediately went about the task of feeding, watering and grooming his horse.
I think this story speak volumes about effective management. Every day, in every company danger lurks. The way one reacts to these perils is critical to the success of the organization. This scout did everything right and lived to ride another day. He made good decisions in the heat of the moment and acted on his best instincts.
Here’s how he did it. When faced with the enemy, he didn’t panic but he did take action. He got back on his horse and bought himself some time to think. He assessed the challenge correctly and did not second guess himself or become a victim of analysis paralysis, the fear of making a bad decision based on insufficient information. (Of course the prospect of death does tend to clarify your thoughts.) The important thing was he made his decisions while he kept moving and he adapted his approach on the run, so to speak. He also utilized his available assets, his blanket and his horse to better his odds. He protected himself and preserved his horse. And then, when he was finally safe at the fort, he did the next most important thing for his future, he cared for his horse before he cared for himself.
There is no better lesson than this for anyone who aspires to lead/manage others. When faced with a crisis or monumental decision you cannot panic. Fear is utterly contagious to those around you who are looking for you to lead, so don’t bat an eye. Assess the situation then take action as quickly as possible. It doesn’t have to be the perfect decision either because you can always make another one if you have bought yourself some time. Take advantage of whatever your resources are and delegate responsibility to others so that everybody comes together as a team. Work the problem not the panic and always lead by example. When you roll up your sleeves too, others will follow. And once the crisis is over, show respect and gratitude for everyone who was part of the team. If you don’t take care of them, you have no right to expect them to take care of you the next time they are needed. You will be amazed how many people will want to follow you again under even more difficult circumstances once you have demonstrated your leadership skills under fire.
The most important thing to remember is this: Some people are born to lead and others to follow but we all need each other equally.We’re all in this together and we can survive many challenges by just helping one another and being there when it truly matters. It’s actually very easy to follow a natural born, effective leader. They make good decisions based on the available information and they act decisively. They value and give respect to those around them and do whatever is necessary to protect their most valuable asset, their people.
I wonder if anybody in corporate America has ever learned these lessons? Don’t you?
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