Leaders Know the Value of Alerts

Image of radar tracking a storm over Lincoln NE

The wind and rain woke me up in the early morning. Before 5am. For some of you, that may not be early. But for me, if the number starts with a 4 or 5, it’s early. Then I heard a “ping, ping, ping” sound. Ahhh, hail. I stayed in bed for a while listening to the storm. It was ferocious. Before too long however my curiosity got the best of me and I got up and went outside on the porch. The sky was green. Welcome to the Midwest!

As it turned out, the storm lasted a couple hours and brought torrential rains with it. By the time I got from my car into the office, my shoes were soaked. Small rivers of rain were running through the parking lot. Many local basements flooded. And some roofs and cars were damaged by the hail. The worst part of the storm went directly over my apartment and the home we’re weeks away from purchasing. Fortunately, I escaped on both accounts although I’d say it was a close call.

There have been a handful of other storms in my life. I remember “surviving” Super Typhoon Pamela when we lived on Guam. Pamela had sustained winds of over 150 mph and gust of over 250 mph. Electricity was out on the island for a month and the last 6 weeks of school was cancelled because of the destruction. I lived through a hail storm in New Mexico that totaled the convertible my mother was driving. The golfball-sized hail destroyed the car (there was no shelter nearby) and severely bruised my mother and grandmother as they shielded my sister and me (we were toddlers). On another occasion I experienced an earthquake that was over 7 on the Richter scale.

Tornados? Yes. Hurricanes? Yes. Tsunamis? No (though I did experience one close call in the Philippines). Blizzards? Yes. Ice-storms? Yes.

Probably due to adventurous nature (and moving to various regions, states, and countries for work or as a military dependent), I’ve experienced a lot of extreme weather in my life. Sometimes I was in a brick home, other times in a commercial building, other times in a tent, and still other times out in the open.

Extreme weather is only one type of storm. There are storms caused by death. By break-ups. By bad neighbors. By divorce. By poor financial decisions. And so on. Live long enough and you’ll experience storms. Who hasn’t? No one can stay inside the bubble forever. At some point, each of us will face a storm. Or many.

Great leaders understand the value of having alerts. These alerts come in many forms. You might have a weather app or special weather radio that alerts you to strong storms such as the one I experienced this week. You might have a friend or family member who serves as an alert to relational issues. You might have a control chart of some type that highlights an abnormality and serves as an alert. You might have a spouse who warns about a financial decision you’re about to make. Or the person providing the alert might be your child or a neighbor or your pastor. Your conscience and gut also serve as alerts if you have good self-awareness.

Great leaders may not be able to predict the future, but they know the value of alerts and they pay attention. Shouldn’t you? Think how foolish it would be if your fire alarm went off and you decided to ignore it. At a minimum, you should get up, check for fire and see if the alarm needs a new battery or has otherwise malfunctioned? Hopefully, you wouldn’t completely ignore it. That would defeat the purpose of the alert and put yourself, and perhaps others, at risk.

Great leaders use data, people, feelings, and other signs (e.g. a green sky) as alerts. And then they respond to the alerts. They investigate. They take action. As the situation requires, they may act quickly (as when a building is on fire) or they may act slowly (if a large financial decision needs to be reevaluated). But they act. Great leaders understand the value of alerts. It helps avoid disasters, failures, crises, severed relationships, and many other negative consequences. Having and responding to alerts can result in financial gain, relational closeness, organizational success, academic achievement, or ethical stability.

Have a great week and consider setting alerts that will give you time to consider options that result in a positive outcome.

is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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