When it’s burning down, falling apart, or spinning out of control, where will you stand? Emergencies don’t care if you’re ready or not. It’s inevitable, there will be people around and they’ll need a strong leader. Will it be you?
Leadership is essential to survival, yet it’s overlooked on survival discussion boards, blogs, and magazines. Why? Because you can’t be a good leader instantly and you can’t buy leadership skills at the store. You need to practice leadership every day, both at home and on the job. Being a dependable leader takes guts and the bravery to try even though you might make mistakes. That’s why very few will be a confident leader that people can trust in an emergency. Here are the three skills that every leader has, and how to apply them in a crisis.
#1: Use Assertive Communication to Get Things Done
Don’t confuse being assertive with being aggressive. Knowing the difference is what makes an effective leader. When you’re assertive, you act and speak with assurance and confidence. An assertive leader earns the respect of others through confident behavior that’s never threatening or dominating. If you want to maintain a solid position in a group or want to survive by your own strengths, you must be an assertive person. There are two specific communication skills that will help you be a more assertive leader.
The ability to speak up when you disagree is a trait that all effective leaders possess. The opposite of being assertive is being passive. That means that you let others’ ideas win out even when you know they won’t work. It takes confidence to make your voice heard even if it goes against the ideas of others. It can be a tough skill to practice, but in the end others will appreciate your desire to contribute ideas.
It’s very important that you don’t violate the trust of others or dominate discussions. An assertive leader respects the needs of everyone involved and is willing to put selfish interests aside for the good of the group. It takes guts to suggest a plan of action or voice an opinion, so don’t shoot their ideas down. Take the positives and build on them instead. Some people may find it difficult to handle the excessive stress and high emotions of a crisis. When you’re assertive you can motivate these individuals to keep working through tough times.
Low self-esteem is usually what contributes to a lack of assertive communication. People who aren’t assertive might be afraid of a conflict rising or being criticized. The best way to build confidence is really to participate in projects and start accomplishing some goals in life. Building your self-confidence by working through regular challenges will give you the power to speak up with confidence. It could be what decides whether you lead the way or get run over during the time when you’re needed most.
In Psychology Today, Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. wrote about being assertive. “People who are non-assertive—that is, passive, verbally withholding, or overly deferential—generally don’t (and can’t) get their basic relational needs met. So they end up feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and unfulfilled.” If you’re unable to meet your basic needs or those of another person during an emergency, you’ve drastically reduced the chances of survival for yourself and others.
#2: Call on Your Problem Solving Skills for a Variety of Scenarios
On a chilly day in January of 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 took of from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. A few minutes into the flight, the plane struck a flock of geese and experienced immediate loss of engine power. The now famous pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, and his First Officer were able to make an emergency landing on the frigid waters of the Hudson River. All 155 passengers were rescued during an emergency evacuation on the water.
The news story was nothing short of a frenzy, with the world’s eyes focused directly on the heroic actions of the pilot. He was calm under pressure and was able to solve a critical problem by making split-second decisions. The lives of all of the passengers and crew aboard were in his hands and he never wavered.
When discussing his role, Captain Sullenberger said, “You know, I think when people are in important positions in big organizations, they often get tied up with the minutia of managing money, managing things. They often forget that people deserve to be led.” He recognized that the people he was leading were worth every bit of his attention and energy. You might not run into a problem quite as large as landing a plane in the Hudson River, but every emergency requires a leader with problem solving skills no matter what the size.
Surviving an emergency situation is the ultimate test of wit, logic, and quick thinking. You’ll need to assess situations and come up with solutions quickly if you want to be an effective leader. Here’s some encouraging news: problem solving skills can be strengthened through a variety of everyday tasks that you probably already do.
You won’t get very far as a leader if you can’t assign tasks or take advice. Trying to do everything all on your own because you’re the only one who can do it correctly is a mistake you’ll quickly regret. Choose the best person for the job and trust that they’ll get it done. If they mess up, give corrections for next time and give them another chance. When you give people tasks to do they’ll appreciate being able to help out and will work hard to make sure you’re pleased. Along the same lines, effective leaders are always open to suggestions and advice. You don’t always have to take it, but taking in new ideas and the suggestions from more skilled people makes the job easier.
Finally, effective leaders of survival crisis situations are nothing but goal oriented. They aren’t distracted by anything if it would stop them from accomplishing the task at hand. Time is of the essence in times of crises, and good leaders stay focused on the target until the job is completed. As the leader, locate the problem and quickly decide the best way to tackle it. Guide any choices or discussions so that they are focused on accomplishing the goal, not on other tasks or issues. When the job is done and the problem has been solved, then you can discuss what worked and what needs to be fixed for next time.
#3: Have the Physical Endurance Necessary to Take on the Challenge
It’s easy to go out and buy a sweet survival knife or a handy water filter. Building physical strength and endurance is tough, and for that reason most preppers choose to purchase goods rather than improve their physical conditioning. If you want to be a respected leader during a crisis, you’ll need the physical strength required to work through stressful situations.
According to the Center for Disease Control, one of the top 3 leading causes of death in 2013 was Heart Disease. And what causes heart disease? The Mayo Clinic lists Diabetes, smoking, excessive use of caffeine and alcohol, and stress as just a few of the causes. Check with your doctor to talk about ways you can increase your fitness levels to get your body prepared for survival.
Leaders need a level of fitness that can endure a range of emotions and a heart that can handle keep on pounding no matter what. The ability to handle a long hike through the woods, a day of removing fallen debris from a roadway, or a sprint to safety is crucial if you want to be a trusted leader.
Often, it’s the leader who steps up and takes on the physical labor of saving another’s life. It might require significant strength to either swim, pull, carry, or fight to keep the lives of the group in safety. Hitting the gym a few times a week to lift weights up and down on a machine is not enough. If you want the respect of the others in the office building, mall, swimming pool, or campsite, wherever the emergency occurs, you’ll need the flexibility and agility to accomplish physical tasks.
So, where do you stand? If you’re already practicing some of these leadership skills you’re ahead of the game. Put them into daily practice to keep them sharp and begin to carve out a reputation as a person who takes on challenges without fear. If you read through this and are wondering where to begin, you’ve already taken the first step. Start investigating each trait a little more and find situations in your daily life in which you can start practicing. Follow along with our tutorials, set some achievable goals for yourself, and become the leader you know you can be.