One of my mentors once told me that Leaders and CEO’s earn their money in the less than 5% of decisions and activities that only they can make. 95% of decisions are ordinary and relatively easy. Leaders are remembered for these key leadership calls and how they handled the pressure of those moments.
One leadership call that I vividly remember was when the Community Organisation I led held our Annual Christmas Pageant, re-enacting the Christmas Story with a cast and crew of over 250 people, live camels, sheep and donkey, involvement from local schools dance groups, choirs and orchestras with a finale involving a 15 minute firework display. The event drew over 8,000 from our local community and it cost well over $50,000 to put on with sponsors always helping make it happen. This event involved year round planning and 3 months of rehearsals.
It was huge and, something unique to Christmas in Australia, it was outdoors!
Each year we hired a local oval and with all our amazing volunteers, over 2 days, transformed it into Bethlehem or another Christmas theme. A truck with an enormous digital screen was driven in so people at the back could see and we had a sound and lighting setup that took over 2 days to install.
We had not had bad weather in 15 years but this particular year rain and wind hindered our setup. It was still raining on and off an hour before starting time. Even so, over 4,000 people were already sitting waiting in the rain.
This was the moment for a leadership call.
The Anatomy of a Leadership Call:
- Seek out accurate information – Weather forecasts, sound and lighting, animal handlers, cast and crew, fireworks, OH & S and security.
- Understand the key risk factors – The rain needed to stop completely. The sound technician informed me unless it stopped raining it was unsafe to go ahead. People’s lives were at risk from electrocution. Several hundred thousand dollars of his company’s equipment (currently under tarpaulins) could be damaged.
- Take a moment (if you can) – I related to the crowd in a brief but fun way and announced that we would be making a decision about the event in 30 minutes. I refused to be governed by the stress of the moment.
- Shut out those who do not see the big picture – there were a few people who suddenly became experts.
- Rely on local knowledge – As I looked in the direction from which our weather usually came, I saw a promising small break on the horizon.
- Listen to your inner voice – I had a strong sense that this was going to work and decided that we would go ahead.
- Consult the key stakeholders with most to lose – I asked the sound and lighting technician if he was willing to risk going ahead with my assurances that if it started raining again we would stop immediately to protect his company’s equipment. This reassured him that I had heard his concerns.
- Make the Leadership Call! – We announced it to the team and to the cheers of the patient crowd.
Thankfully the rain stopped and the wind eased and we had a fantastic evening together. If we had have been rained out I would at least have known that I had made the best decision possible in the moment.
This whole decision took approximately 30 minutes on the night. Sometimes you have more time and on other occasions much less but the key thing is to make sure you as the leader are making the decision and not allowing others or indecision to make it for you.
How are you in the moment when a Leadership Call is required?
The big calls in life are usually not to be rushed.
Too often the lack of information and understanding can mean we make the wrong decision.
Thanks for the list. If I can do all these things when I need to make the big decisions I'll be happy.
You have made me consider a multitude of scenarios, John.