LEADERSHIP VALUES: I Alone Can Fix Things v Together We Can Move Mountains

I’ve just had the absolute honour of speaking at a conference in Sydney for people who are first responders in a crisis. The audience was mostly medical personnel; managers who have to deal with unforeseen events and even some people who work with hostage negotiators. No pressure then! My topic was leadership and my session was ‘Courage Under Fire’. I’d been specifically invited to speak about Jacinda Ardern’s courage in the face of the Christchurch massacre. Once again – no pressure.
I built my session around a time when I worked for Lower Hutt City Council as the Electoral Roll Officer and where all staff in the building doubled as civil defence in the event of a crisis. And boy did we face a crisis. Most of you won’t have even been born when Lower Hutt hillsides literally dissolved after days of torrential rain. Houses literally slid down the hills as did cars, boats and caravans. Roads collapsed under the pressure of the sheer force of water. As back up civil defence we had trained and rehearsed our role. We were ready.
Except that on the day when our services were required, my small son was in a day care centre in Petone that became flooded. Sewers were backing up all over the valley and a fire alert went out warning businesses that petrol was leaching into the flood waters from fuel tanks that couldn’t cope. The day care centre called me to say ‘You need to collect your son NOW – we are evacuating the centre.’ So I was civil defence for about 5 minutes. I had to make my way terrifyingly through those waters to collect my son and then fight our way back through those waters to collect my daughter whose school was in those disintegrating hills. What I shared with my audience was this – when crisis happens people will do several things:

  • All training will go out the window as they rush to save their families (as I did)
  • Fear and panic over-rides all training: survival instincts kick in
  • Nothing prepares us for the totally unexpected so nothing prepares us for how people will react in the totally unexpected.

Which brings us to Jacinda’s reaction on the day of the massacre. Jacinda had no training manual; she hadn’t rehearsed for a mass shooting; with the exception of one event in the South Island, in 1990, NZ has had no more mass shootings. She was in totally unchartered territory. Jacinda’s reaction was based 100% on her values: she looked after people first and then within days she had gathered all politicians together to jointly ban assault rifles.

And yet we witness regular mass shootings in America. Two in two days recently. I won’t mention his name, but you’ll know who I’m referring to. He promised that he, and he alone could fix things, and in the aftermath of El Paso and Dayton, he could have chosen the same courageous path Jacinda chose. He could have gathered American politicians together to ban assault rifles. He didn’t and probably never will. This person puts the dollar before people. Those are HIS values.   Because I’ve spent so many years working with teams, I know that groups of people together can achieve way more than one person who thinks he or she knows best ever can or will.

Back to the conference. As an icebreaker in my keynote session, I used my ‘Motley Crew’ game (some of you will be familiar with that game), people had to decide who, amongst a group of weird people they would choose as the leader of 8 people who were about to restart the human race on another planet. Always a fabulous game; heaps of laughs. After my session a woman who is a very senior manager in a very well known technology company asked me if I had a ‘management’ version of that game; I didn’t but I knocked one together for her. 

I hate creating something and only using it once, so if you would like a copy of this Management Motley Crew game – e.mail me and I’ll send it to you. Go well.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Ann Andrews CSP
Speaker, author, profiler, Life Member NSANZ

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Check out my latest book: Leaders Behaving Badly: What happens when ordinary people show up, stand up and speak.

Testimonial:“Ann, thank you very much for your excellent presentation to our Annual Managers & Leadership Conference. We consider a delegate score of 3.7 a good result, and 4 or above as excellent. You scored 4.63 – this is not only the best score of the conference, it’s the best score for the year so far (out of 70 speakers)!”  EMA (Northern) Inc.

To book Ann to liven up your next conference call her on 0272 465 585.


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