Survival Leadership, Part 1

too mnay chiefs

This is a difficult topic and one could fill a book with theories and hypotheses.  There is strength in numbers but there is also the tendency to operate as individuals rather than as a team.  A clear chain of command is a beautiful thing but in a desperate situation where emotions are running high, it may be difficult if not impossible to create order and enforce discipline.  At a fundamental level, everyone must acknowledge that there is no room for dead weight.  Everyone has to contribute not only for the successful survival of the team but also for the fundamental human need to be included.  Without shared sacrifice and shared rewards, the team will eventually dissolve.  There is no room for competitive egos in a survival situation.

If time is critical, do the best you can with what you have available.  There is a common quote often attributed to Rommel that states, “In the absence of further orders, Attack!”.  When it comes to your life and the lives of your family, do not delegate responsibility and be satisfied to wait for rescue.  Survival situations are fluid and you must have a plan ready to go at a moment’s notice.  Another common error is the analysis paralysis that sets in when people do not want to take responsibility or fear of making a poor decision.  Remember that no decision is often more dangerous than a bad decision.  Use sound judgment and then be flexible.  Adapt to the fluid nature of a survival situation and always move closer to your goals.

Leading during a crisis may be much easier if it is just your family unit.  However, if your family leadership dynamic expects to change in a crisis, it is worth discussing it over dinner or at a family meeting.  Children could be confused by the adjustments to the pecking order.  If it is just your family, get the entire family involved in the discussion of survival leadership.  There must be an understanding that business as usual is suspended.

There are many tasks that have to be accomplished every hour of every day.  No one should ever be bored.  Remember again that there can be no dead weight.  These tasks might include security, communication monitoring, updating inventories, and maintenance or health checks.  These are just a few critical activities and no single person can do them all at the same time without sacrificing another.  The leader must delegate, schedules must be created, and even the most mundane task can benefit from a reward structure.  Feedback mechanisms for constructive suggestions may be helpful and should be encouraged, but fundamentals such as security can never be shortcut.

Continued in Survival Leadership, Part 2



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