Napa Fires Offer Powerful Lesson on Leadership, Courage and Connection

 

napafiredave
Napa Fire near Atlas Peak, October 2017

 

A client of mine lives near Atlas Peak in Napa. He and his family were evacuated during the horrific fires that descended upon the Napa Valley recently. When they returned to their home, miraculously, the raging fire had stopped 150 feet from his home.

A friend of his wasn’t so lucky.

My client and several friends gathered for safety at another family’s house after they had all been evacuated. One friend was devastated when he and his wife told the others that his family’s home and winery were literally in the line of fire and that he was certain their home would be lost. Their children were in the next room waiting helplessly.

My client and his friends and their families sat quietly for a while, all stunned by what was happening. The sorrow for this family’s loss was just about to consume them when my client and his buddies looked at their friend, his wife and kids and back to each other and said, “Hell, no, it isn’t going to take your house. Let’s go fight it!”

The wind was blowing at 70 mph, flames were jumping wildly across the landscape. Propane tanks were whistling and exploding without warning throughout the area. Flames shot up through unseen wells.

These men, bonded by love, friendship and a deep connection to the land, gathered with plows, chainsaws, buckets, hacksaws. They descended on their friend’s property and began to fight to put the fire out. The firefighters told them they were on their own.

They worked relentlessly and courageously into the night. The tall burning eucalyptus trees across the property rained fire down on their heads. There was no power, no cell service and no lights other than the surreal and ethereal glow coming from other homes that were on fire in the area. One of them fell into a well and when he was rescued, got right back to work, despite injury. They plowed motes to create fire breaks, they cut away burning trees and shrubs and stumps that threated to spread and destroy the home. My client was in tennis shoes and shorts. The ground was so hot it melted the bottom of his shoes, but he kept on. They carried five-gallon buckets of water in each hand and repeatedly filled and poured water onto the fire. They all continued working for many hours straight until they successfully stopped the fire.

Relieved and exhausted, they returned to the friend’s house where they had all gathered earlier in safety. They didn’t get much rest, though, as they soon found out that the fire had restarted. They returned for another several hours of battling until at last, and for certain, they had saved the home.

My client was modest and reflective as he told me this story. He said none of them thought twice about fighting the fire even though none were trained to do so. They never even considered the very real possibility of being injured. He said their anger at the fire fueled them. They refused to let it beat them. They channeled their anger in the most productive way possible. They joined together: friends, neighbors, fellow human beings. And as crazy as the experience was, he said it was a powerful experience, one of purpose and connection. In addition to saving his friend’s house, throughout the week as others were fighting to save their homes, he met neighbors whom he hadn’t met before. The “old timers” who had lived in the country for years taught him ways to protect his home and property. The tragedy created new bonds and brought a profound sense of community and shared purpose.

In the last sixty days we have witnessed an unnerving number of heart-wrenching catastrophes and we have heard similar stories of people helping others selflessly and without hesitation. I wept when I read the account of the woman in Las Vegas who held the hand of another concert goer whom she did not know, as he died. He did not die alone, she would not let him.

What is it that causes us to forget that we are inextricably connected to one another and need each other for survival in this world? It is so ironic that bias, judgement and hatred, which I believe all have their genesis in fear, fall completely away when we are scared for real, scared for our lives. Why does it take extreme situations for us to remember our common humanity and recognize the vulnerability present in every single one of us?

If there is any good that can come out of the tragedies and madness that is so pervasive right now in the U.S. and the world, perhaps it is an awareness that we can no longer fool ourselves into thinking that we are safe and that we can manage as stand-alone islands, merely co-existing with others. We cannot survive alone. We need each other, not just our families, friends and neighbors. We need each other across the globe. And not just in times of crisis. And not just because of economic and other interdependencies. I believe there is a universal soul of humanity and that soul is in desperate need of connection and of ongoing care and feeding.

Let’s be like my client and his friends in their refusal to let their buddy’s house burn down. Let’s daily make a point of showing our respect and love for others and refuse to accept anything less. Let’s look for ways to be nice, thoughtful, united and caring, especially when we disagree about issues. Let’s put our smart phones away for a while and make a point of talking to each other and building relationships. Let’s start each day with a grateful heart and intentionally share that heart with others in any way that we can. And then, let’s take measure of how it changes us. I’m betting it will be for the better. How about you?

Copyright 2017 Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.

How To Lead With Valor In Turbulent Times

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Moral outrage and vehement, yet peaceful,  disagreement are necessary and legitimate responses to anyone or anything that goes against the morals and values of a civilized world. What we must be mindful of is not allowing our fight against injustice to mirror the energy and behavior of that with which we disagree. If we do, we inadvertently give what we don’t want MORE momentum.
The most effective and memorable leaders have risen powerfully against what is unjust while personally demonstrating  civility and respect for humanity. This is what shifts the momentum to what is good and just.
The characteristics of such leaders include being:
·        Principled vs self-righteous
·        Definitive vs equivocal
·        Passionate vs violent
The minute we fall into the same patterns of incivility in our protests  against the lack of civility, we have lost our power to influence change and we have inadvertently fueled the momentum of the very thing we despise.
“Hatred and fear blind us. We no longer see each other. We only see the faces of monsters, and that gives us the courage to destroy each other. Thich Nhat Hanh
Perhaps the greatest challenge of leadership is in managing our own emotional reactions to violations of human values. But when we can do so, we are able to  seize the opportunity and  respond intentionally with our thoughts, words and actions.  Leading by example for what we stand for and what we are unwilling to compromise on, even when provoked, has great power. It teaches and empowers others to do the same, and most important, it disempowers opposing forces.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller
Let us take inspiration from and stand with the great leaders, famous and not famous,  who have come before us and to those we see modeling leadership character today. The best way to show our gratitude for their brave actions that have made our world better is to do our part every day. It is not necessary to play on a huge stage. It is only necessary that we use our every word and action to demonstrate our  uncompromising devotion to a world where love prevails and where the universal operating system upon which we exist is based on the dignity of all humanity.
Copyright 2017, Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.

Top 5 Elements of Authentic Leadership

Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting

“Being an authentic leader means being true to who you are and what you believe in. You understand the purpose of your leadership, and you practice your values consistently. .. It’s about leading with your heart, not just your head — so you’re leading as a whole person. And when I talk about matters of the heart, I’m referring to qualities like empathy, compassion, passion, and courage.”       Bill George, Author of  “True North”
Continue reading → Top 5 Elements of Authentic Leadership

10 Ways To Succeed As A Leader: Coach Madden’s Top 10 for 2012

Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting

Do you ever notice that genuine leaders never stop saying “yes” to life? When good things are happening they celebrate but continue moving forward and no matter what adversity faces them, they find a way to transform it and create something good.

Fundamentally, that is what leadership is. It has nothing to do with titles, paychecks, spans of control or expectations.  It has everything to do with who someone is on the inside. It has to do with the character, creativity and promise with which they approach every single person, situation and day.
Continue reading → 10 Ways To Succeed As A Leader: Coach Madden’s Top 10 for 2012

How Extraordinary Leaders Communicate: 7 Principles of Fierce Conversations

Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting

As I watch the staggering inability of the world’s leaders to communicate with integrity and to engage people in solving the problems we face, I am reminded of one of the best leadership books I have ever read: Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott. 

Does the word “Fierce” scare you? It shouldn’t. The lack of it is what should scare the living daylights out of you.  As defined on the book’s cover “fierce” means “robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager and unbridled.”
Continue reading → How Extraordinary Leaders Communicate: 7 Principles of Fierce Conversations

How Executive Coaching Accelerates Leadership Success

Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting

My clients count on me to accelerate their success by being:  

1. A trusted, strategic business thinker with a passion for partnering with them to consistently achieve extraordinary results

2. Someone who has an unending ability to see their full potential and the ability to coach that potential into reality
Continue reading → How Executive Coaching Accelerates Leadership Success

Conscious Capitalism

 
 
 

Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting

Can Businesses Do Well By Doing Good? You Bet They Can!

Business has been, and should always be, a powerful force for good in the world generating not just financial wealth but social, emotional, intellectual and cultural wealth as well.  This is the message of Dr. Rajendra Sisodia, Professor of Marketing at Bentley College, John Mackey, Co-Founder and CEO of WholeFoods and other global thought leaders involved in the Conscious Capitalism Institute.  http://www.consciouscapitalism.org/whatis-conscious-capitalism.html
Continue reading → Conscious Capitalism

IQ Isn’t Enough To Be A Great Leader. What Is Your EQ?

 

Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting

What is EQ you ask? 

It is Emotional Intelligence. Simply stated: Being intelligent about emotions, yours and others. 80-90% of leadership effectiveness is based on EQ not IQ. There are 4 components:

  • Self Awareness
  • Social Awarenes
  • Self Management
  • Relationship Management.

It all starts with Self Awareness, without that, you can’t develop fully in the other areas.
Continue reading → IQ Isn’t Enough To Be A Great Leader. What Is Your EQ?