[May 11, 2018] On a quiet night where little enemy activity had been a pleasant break from the incessant mortar and rocket attacks on our small outpost, one lone rocket hit our unit’s ammunition storage bunker. Things went haywire after that. But leaders don’t panic and we were able to contain the fire and explosions rather quickly.
Real leaders don’t panic; at least the good ones don’t anyway. Whether it be combat, a natural or manmade disaster, a medical emergency, it matters not the situation; good leadership means keeping one’s head while others panic or they look to you for quick and correct guidance.
While reading books and articles on the U.S. Civil War, I often came across passages that described battles where one of the combatants panicked and ran when they were losing the battle. This set into motion the circumstances that the one winning was able to do more damage to those fleeing the battlefield.
It’s always best in a battle to stand your ground unless ordered to retreat and then to do so in an orderly manner. However, this runs counter to our human nature; when under threat, people run! In wars throughout history, we see this pattern repeated to such a point that historians often make note of it. Panic on the battlefield is a significant event.
So it is with human behavior not on the battlefield. When things are looking bad in business, workers and management can begin to panic. This sets into motion a chain of events that make it worse for the company. Bad decisions happen, good workers quit, suppliers restrict their sales, etc. A death spiral occurs when it becomes increasingly difficult for an organization to recover.1
You may think this is easy. If that were the case, why are there so many examples of leaders failing to control their own instincts and also panic? Why do people panic in the first place? It is not so much about courage, than it is about staying focused and using leadership to hold a group together.
The characteristics of leadership, those traits that I’ve repeatedly discussed here at theLeaderMaker.com – like loyalty, credibility, trust, and confidence – are what keep organizations together and performing their mission without going into panic mode.