Back in my Special Forces days, we would train with the military units of different countries. One trip was to Austria to train with the Austrian Mountain Troops. The Austrian Mountain Troops are some of the best in the world in mountain operations.
One day, we had ski toured pretty high up on one of the local mountains. We were coming out of a forested area and needed to cross an open area to get to where we were going. The problem was that the open area had gotten a lot of cold wind and it was really icy. To make it even better, it was very steep with a cliff at the bottom.
If you fall you die, don’t fall
The old Austrian Master Sergeant that was leading our group skied up in front of us. He looked all of us in the eye and said, “If you fall, you die. Don’t fall.” He was serious. It was extremely steep and with the icy conditions, if you fell you wouldn’t be able to stop yourself before you went over the cliff.
So do you think he just sent us out there to cross the ice field?
No, he skied ahead and put himself below us in the middle. We crossed one by one and he coached us through the field, telling us where to stop, when to cut into the ice a little more, or when to hurry.
There are a couple big lessons here:
Tell the truth straight up – Don’t sugar coat bad news or a dangerous situation. To not tell us the gravity of the situation might have made someone careless which could have led to a death.
Accept the situation for what it is – If you fall you die, don’t fall. Sometimes you just have to man (or woman) up and do what has to be done. There might not be any alternatives.
Be the leader in the front– In bad spots, get out there and lead from the front. By skiing out in the middle of the exposed slope the ski instructor could have been knocked down by one of us falling. However, he would not have been able to see as much from the side and we might not have heard his instructions. His presence in the middle and his voice gave us the confidence and ability to get through a tight situation.
You don’t have to be a ski instructor, Special Forces member, business executive or even in charge of anyone to be a leader. First off you always lead yourself. Take charge of your life, get it in the direction it needs and you want it to go.
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