Leadership is Not a Knee Jerk Reaction

Last week I turned 44.
Last week I flew to Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Last week an innocent soldier was intentionally run over in Quebec.
Last week he was 53.
Last week an innocent soldier was gunned down in our Nations Capital.
Last week he was 24.
Last week I turned 44. 

It has been a full on seven days for me. I have appreciated most of it, although I cannot appreciate the senseless hit and run of Warrant Officer Vincent or the shooting in Ottawa of our solider Corporal Nathan Cirillo. 

By the very nature of waking up on Thursday October 23rd I lived twenty years longer than Corporal Cirillo. When I entered my forties my very very dear friend said to me ‘it’s a privilege to grow older.’ And that resonated with me then, as it does now. So let me say it again, it is a privilege to grow older. Not everyone gets that option, not everyone chooses that option.

Like all of you; my life has been littered with hard times and good times, gut wrenching times and exhilarating times. Unique moments and awesome adventures, mind bending pain and escaped accidents.

I didn’t feel fear last week when I heard of the shooting or even when I flew into Ottawa and the City was still in lock down. I didn’t feel fear because crazy doesn’t get to take my freedom. Just like someone doesn’t get to come into my house and mistreat my family, others don’t get to come into my country and hurt my, our Canadians without consequence. There is a saying – whoever makes you angry owns you. That guy, that guy with a gun who murdered our solider on our land, he doesn’t get to own me. The other guy who intentionally hit and killed another one of our soldiers, he doesn’t get to own me. Instead, they get the brunt of me. They get the strategy, the commitment and the full force of my united Country. Make no mistake, you are not welcome here if you will not respect us or our country. You are not welcome to share our freedom if you will not honour it, if you will not uphold its virtue and believe in its beauty, you are not welcome. And we will not tolerate nor be intimidated by your violence as a method to control us. We will not be bullied.

There were many heroic efforts on October 22, 2014 in Ottawa. The people who ran to Corporal Cirillo’s aid, who performed CPR, who spoke kindly to him as he approached death with calming thoughtful beautiful words of love, who called 911 and who focused on him and not the shooter, and more importantly, did not focus on themselves.  They were leaders.

Tragedy shines a light on leadership. Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers is a decorated Police veteran who is in charge of Parliament Security. Kevin Vickers shot and killed the terrorist who was wreaking havoc on October 22, 2014. I imagine the possibility of an event of this nature crossed his mind. I can imagine that his training prepared him for that very moment when the shooter entered Parliament.  I can imagine that he thought no more than a second, if that, before retrieving his gun and marching into the unknown; I can imagine that he did not consider his own personal safety. I can imagine that he considered the safety of everyone else. That’s leadership.

People who know Mr. Vickers from his policing days said ‘he was always different. He wasn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get to work. He was a professional. And for him to use force, it would have had to have been life or death.’ That’s leadership.

Leadership is not a knee jerk reaction. Your job is to be ready. Your job is to be prepared. Your job is to be trained. Your job is to do the dirty work, the hard stuff, the risky stuff, the stuff that will use you and the stuff that will make you better.  Because ultimately, it is not about you.

Leadership is not just knowing the right thing to do, its knowing it and doing it.

When you know the right thing to do, and you do it no matter the cost to your own personal safety – that’s Leadership.

Selfless acts of bravery. That you take the risk, for the betterment of the whole. That you sacrifice so that others won’t have to – that’s leadership.

For people to follow you, they have to know that you are willing to do anything to help them, protect them and keep them safe. As much as Mr. Vickers does not want to be held as a hero, he is, and he is because he acted in a selfless manner to improve and make better the situation for the whole no matter the personal cost. That’s leadership.

There are often so many good examples of leadership found in tragedy. I encourage you to look within your own team or organization and ensure that the bullies (or dare I say, without minimizing the reality of our world, terrorists), know without any ambiguity that if they will not respect you or your team or your company that they are not welcome. And that you will not tolerate nor be intimidated by their manipulation and violence as a method to control you. You will not be bullied. 

And let me also encourage you to practice and prepare relentlessly, so that when your moment arrives you act in a way that may appear knee jerk, but is really a strategic approach with tireless commitment to the process. 
I am very proud to be Canadian, I am very proud of how our Country has responded and I’m exceptionally proud of our citizens who were leaders. Let us commend impressive selfless behaviour and let us clearly articulate that a willingness to injure one is unacceptable because even that one has a place, a purpose and is worth the efforts of us all. 
True North Strong and Free.

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