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When All Are Losing Their Heads
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As the U.S. was struck four times this morning, the importance of having a good, strong leader was played up. Paralleling our interview with the leader of Suite101, today we look at the characteristics of a strong leader.

Today's article was carefully edited, lodged and the parties notified that it was going live today. The machinery thus started, there was no stopping the publication at 12:01 a.m.

But by 6 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, today's article needed to be shifted somehow. By 7 a.m., it was obvious that there were two articles for today but it was a matter of strategizing how to handle both. "You, the Managing Director," an interview/chat with Julie Bradshaw who is the President and co-founder of Suite101 is live and co-existing with this article. Please consider taking time to read both articles.

We all hope that our judgment is keen enough that when it comes to hiring, we actually have hired the best person for the job. When it comes to hiring one of the company leaders, it's especially important to know that the best possible (or even the best) is part of the organization.

It's when an emergency or a disaster occurs and that person is propelled into taking sharp, quick, definitive action that the proof the pudding occurs. There's no time in that situation to shift about looking for the alternatives and waiting for feelings to subside. Nor is there time to be timid. There's time enough for feelings and such afterward. It is imperative that the situation be assessed quickly and accurately and that the best available options are executed on time.

This morning's disaster was a proof of the pudding situation. It was well enough to excuse the first plane's bulleting itself into one of the World Trade Center towers as an unfortunate accident. Pilot error could be attributed. But then the second strike in the other tower just 18 minutes later. These were not accidents. Then five minutes later, the same colossal explosion at the Pentagon.

When all others about were losing their heads in shock and catatonic disbelief, a few alert leaders of the Federal Aviation Association ordered all U.S. flights to stop and no further international flights were allowed to land. It was time to stop attributing no-longer isolated incidents to accident and start seeing these as attacks that demanded attention.

It's healthy to have many personality types in an organization, each adding its unique dynamic to addressing the myriad issues that arise and require one type of finesse compared with another. However, the leader of the organization needs to be one who is unflappable, fearless in the face of disaster, organized and methodical in the midst of chaos, thinking and strategic when plans and purposes are asunder.

This person needs to be clear headed, clear thinking, and doggedly determined to move forward. Moving forward is their drive. Finding the best way to do so is their internal directive. When all others about them are losing their heads, the leader brings sense and purpose back into the organization and does what a leader is supposed to do -- stays level-headed and leads the group and the organization to the company's vision of success and winning.

As you interview for that leadership position, make certain that the critical elements of a leader are there.

Managerial Leadership
Managerial Leadership

Total Leadership: How to Inspire and Motivate for Personal and Team Effectiveness
Total Leadership: How to Inspire and Motivate for Personal and Team Effectiveness

Originally published September 11, 2001
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