Saturday, January 22, 2011

What Would Gabby Do?

America is in a teaching moment. Out of the horrendous crime of the Tuscon shooting, endless lessons are being taught. One of those lessons speaks directly to the question of leadership. When the staff of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford tried to put the office back together, they constantly asked, “What would Gabby do?” The question comes home for every CEO of Christ-centered organizations. If we were suddenly incapacitated, how would our staff respond? Have we groomed a second in command who can function in our absence? Have we delegated with confidence so that our direct reports can proceed without serious interruption? Have we prepared our team for crisis?

In my book Stewards of a Sacred Trust, I tell the story of preparing for a three-month sabbatical from the presidency. I groomed a senior vice-president to be chief executive in my absence. I delegated responsibilities to other vice-presidents and avoided second-guessing them. But, one month into the sabbatical, an internal controversy became a public crisis. My reverie in the desert was shattered by a panic call because my staff had no answer to the question, “What would David do?” In that instant, the sabbatical ended. Later, we called in a consultant to ask what went wrong. After careful study, he likened the situation a pilot flying an airplane. “You prepared your people for a routine flight,” he said, “But you gave them no training for an emergency landing.”

Ask yourself. Have you groomed someone to be CEO in your absence? Have you delegated with confidence to your executive team? Have you taught them how to handle crisis if you were out of the picture or unable to function? Out of tragedy, Gabby is our teacher.

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