Army captain William Swenson was awarded a congressional medal of honor last September 8, 2009. That day, the Afghan troops were making their way to help protect government officials that are meeting some village elders. They were ambushed. Captain Swenson run into the wildfire to rescue the wounded and pull out those people who died. One of the people he rescued was a sergeant. He and a comrade were making their way into a helicopter. Coincidentally, one of the medics has a go pro camera in his helmet and captured the whole scene. It captured Captain Swenson and his comrade bringing a wounded soldier who received a gunshot to the neck. They put him in a helicopter and then captain Swenson and give the soldier a kiss before turning around to help more soldiers.
Where do people like that come from? What is that? There is a deep emotion and love there. You would question yourself, why is that I don’t have people that I work with like that? In the military, they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so we may gain. We would think that maybe in the military, they are better people attracted to the concept of service; that’s completely wrong. It is the environment. If we set the environment right, we can also do these remarkable things. There is a deep sense of trust and cooperation. The problem of concepts of trust and cooperation is that, they are feelings. They are not instructions. A leader can’t simply say ‘trust me’ and the people will. We can’t instruct people to cooperate and they will.
Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe
So where do feelings come from? If we go back fifty thousand years to the Paleolithic era to the early days of homo-sapiens, we would find out how the world is filled with danger. All forces are trying to kill us; weather, lack of resources, and even animals. We evolved to be social animals to survive. We lived together, we lived in tribes and groups. The natural reaction inside the tribe where we feel like we belong is to trust each other. If there is no trust, we won’t be protecting each other from dangers; a bad system of survival. The modern day is exactly the same, we are facing dangers that prevents us from being successful. It could be the ups and downs of the economy, the uncertainty of the stock market, it could be a new technology that renders your business model obsolete overnight or it could be your competition that is trying to kill you and put you out of business. We have no control over these forces, these are constant factors that are not going away. The only variables are the conditions inside your organization and that’s where leadership matters because the leaders sets the term. When the leader makes the choice to put the safety and lives of the people inside the organization first, to sacrifice their comforts and the tangible results so that the people remain to feel safe and that they belong, remarkable things happen.