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Seize your moment

Three lessons learned from stories of leaders’ successes and failures – and their ramifications.

L eadership is easily understood and described in abstract terms. A leader is someone who steps to the front of a crowd, who inspires, who influences, who can shape and steer the opinion of others. But for the concept of leadership to truly resonate, for it to go beyond the realm of hypotheticals and academic constructs, you need to understand the significance of its real-world context and ramifications – and why taking that step forward to lead is so often life-changing.

Jerry Holder

That is, in brief, why I’m writing today about The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All by Michael Useem. In this book, in these stories of success and failure, there are examples of how the course of history has been determined by how individuals responded to the challenges placed before them. These are a few of the lessons that have stuck with me: 1. Collaborate with the best. Fifty-five hours after Apollo 13 lifted off on April 11, 1970, a 36-year-old engineer named Eugene Kranz found that the eyes of the world were fixed on him. An oxygen tank aboard the shuttle had exploded, resulting in the loss of the command module’s normal

supply of electricity, light, and water – 200,000 miles from earth. In short, the question quickly became: How do we get them home? As Useem notes, as flight director, Kranz had the final call on any decision made. The burden of those lives was on him. But he wasn’t alone. The reason for Kranz’s success is that he had some of the nation’s greatest minds beside him, all of them working in tandem to bring Apollo 13 home safely. While it’s true most of us won’t experience pressure of this magnitude, there is a parallel. The reason we hire the smartest people we can find at Garver is that, as engineers, we are providing a service that has enormous stakes. That collaboration is at the

See JERRY HOLDER, page 4


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