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’.
Week #6 – thinking differently. Leadership is less about maintaining the status quo and more about finding a way through an evolving context to still achieve the mission. In this excerpt I explain how I learnt the importance of thinking differently alongside my skills and training on a mission one winter’s night in Bosnia.
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The news came in. There had been a fire ‘up country’ in Bosnia at an old bus station in Mrkonjic Grad where 26th Armoured Engineer Squadron were based. Sleeping bags, camp beds, clothing and other kit had been destroyed in the fire and dozens of troops were now facing the prospect of a night in sub-zero temperatures. A C-130 Hercules transport aircraft had already been despatched from the UK loaded with emergency supplies. However, the closest it would be able to get to the bus station was Split airport – still over 100 miles away. It would arrive at Split in one hour. We had to get ready. We needed to brief the mission, plan the route, prepare the aircraft and get dressed for flying in sub-zero conditions. These were early days in the detachment and we were wary of the threats from the enemy, not to mention the threats from flying at night in winter conditions in an unfamiliar terrain. I was anxious but also excited. This was real and the sort of work I had spent the past three years training for.
There was 8/8 of cloud cover up country – this meant a total blanket of cloud with no breaks – and there was snow in the air. We would need to be mindful of our icing limits to fly up to the landing site at low level staying below the cloud – there would be no other way to reach the troops. Using Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) we would follow a route I had planned to follow the valleys and key reference points as best we could. The maps we were using were not as detailed or familiar as the UK maps that I was used to from my navigator training. The accuracy of where hazards were plotted – such as wires and pylons – was uncertain. We had to be cautious. My first operational tour, flying in freezing conditions, at night, in a degrading weather situation in a country where there was still a threat of hostile enemy action towards us. Awesome.
We started the Chinook engines and flew the few hundred yards across to the apron at Split Airport where the C-130 had just landed and parked. By now it was properly dark, and the area was bathed in an amber glow from the apron’s floodlights. We taxied so that our cabin ramp was facing the C-130’s ramp and the crewman and Royal Air Force personnel from the airport quickly got to work transferring kit between the aircraft. I programmed our navigation equipment with the route plan whilst our two crewmen Martin and Rick did an outstanding job of efficiently filling all the space in the cabin with boxes of supplies, there was no point ferrying fresh air to our customers. By the time they had finished loading they could not see each other across the cabin which was full floor to ceiling and wall to wall, and the only way we knew Martin was at the back of the aircraft was because he was on the intercom. We carried out our pre-flight checks and launched into the dark winter’s night.
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If you or your organisation is in need of a navigator to develop brilliant leaders and leadership then please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
To understand more about thinking differently join us for a leadership journey on the Navigator Programme 2019 (open summer programme):
Up to 25% discount if booked by 30thApril 2019
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