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In my latest book ‘Your navigator’ I share some of the experiences and adventures that forged my own understanding of what makes a difference in leadership – from the leadership qualities that matter through to the leadership principles that make a real difference to individual, team and organisational effectiveness. In a series of blogs over the next 8 weeks I’ll be sharing excerpts from each of the key chapters in ‘Your navigator’.

The Navigator Programme 2019 Open Programme (Summer) places available:

London: 3rd & 4th Jun | 19th Jul | 21st & 22nd Aug | 23rd Sep

North-West: 21st & 22nd May | 25th Jun | 15th & 16th Jul | 19th Aug

Week #3 – courage. Recounting an adventure in Kosovo in 1999 I describe in this chapter where I think courage comes from, how we can engage with it for leadership and what gets in the way – fear.

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Kosovo 1999

A few days later we relocated to Skopje airport in Macedonia. As is often the case with Support Helicopters there was initially little infrastructure in place to support us. We put up tents within yards of the runway – which was less than ideal given the 24/7 nature of NATO forces flying in and out with supplies around the clock – and we made our temporary home.

For the next few days our daily routine would be to wake before sunrise, have breakfast and carry out a general crew briefing so that we could be available and flexible to launch as incoming tasking required. We would sit around the aircraft ready to go, waiting to see what information our Flight Commander, Mike, would bring on return from his high-level briefing. Usually, Mike would walk back from the briefing tent toward us, his flight crews, who were sat around the aircraft waiting for orders. One of the crewmen, Rob – often smoking a tab – would keep a lookout for him from near the rear of the fuselage of the Chinook closest to the Operations tent.  The crews would be sheltering from the strengthening sun in the relative cool of the Chinook’s cabin, lounging on the bench seating. As Mike crossed the grassy area between our flight line and the operations tent, we would ask Rob “any sign?” and Rob would respond. Sometimes Mike would be walking, head down and looking focussed; “bad news” Rob would say. This usually meant there was no flying, or some other nuisance bureaucracy would be the order of the day. Other times Mike would be walking a bit more briskly with his head up and smiling; “good news” Rob would say. This usually meant that at least some of us would have some tasking to go and do some flying. We had got into the habit of periodically calling to Rob “good news or bad news Rob?” However, on one occasion, at around the time that the end of the senior briefing would be concluding, one of us called out: “Rob, good news or bad news?” expecting the usual “he’s heads up” or “he’s heads down” response. “F**k that…” Rob exclaimed, hurriedly extinguishing his cigarette and launching into action, “he’s running!” We all jumped up and quickly got our kit on ready for flying, anticipating that some urgent tasking was imminent – sure enough, Mike wanted us all airborne as soon as possible.

With the minimal brief and a grid reference shared between the crews we got airborne and flew for ten minutes to a large wheat field that was right up against the border with Kosovo. We knew that the NATO forces, led by the British Parachute Regiment and Gurkhas, would be entering Kosovo as a peace-keeping force and liberating it from Serbian control to allow the refugees – several thousand of whom were camped on the northern Macedonian border – back into the country. Only tarmac roads could be used for transport as the widespread threat that minefields had been sown on softer tracks was a real concern. Our task was to transport the Paras and Gurkhas north into Kosovo along Route 65 to Kacanik and eventually Pristina, dropping them off in a leap frog fashion at road bridges which were the only sites that were cleared and which we could be reasonably confident weren’t sabotaged. From there the route would be secured and the country would be liberated. However, it was unknown what the intentions of the Serbian Forces were and exactly where they were located.

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To find out what happened – ‘Your navigator’ book is available from Amazon:

Paperback:      https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1793865655

Kindle:             https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07NDLSRY9

If you or your organisation is in need of a navigator to develop brilliant leaders and leadership then please contact me: richard@yournavigator.co.uk