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  • Patricia Northrup

Leadership 401

Flying has been very benign lately so I have been working on this post for a while now.  At the same time, I have been noticing on Facebook all these master classes by experts in various fields.  Most fields can only be mastered through experience not the classroom.  Why? Because life affords us situations that can only be experienced through the odd conglomeration of events that only this crazy journey of life can dream up.

I notice a vacuum of true leadership in many areas of my world that when I do come across a true leader, it stands out and I take note.  There is much to be learned from very good leaders and even more to be learned by those who falter in leading.

My leadership experience is broad and I am always looking for opportunities that will allow me to widen and improve it even more. 

To date I have:

1. Created a school-speaking program as Miss California and spearheaded a speaking tour to over 50,000 students about self-esteem and drug awareness,

2. Been chief designer and project manager for stability and control on a NASA supersonic aircraft design project,

3. Been an Instructor Pilot for the California Air National Guard.

4. Been Chief of Safety and Chief of Training for the146th Airlift Wing/115th Airlift Squadron.

5. Flown 100 Combat Missions as C-130 Aircraft Commander.

6. Been the Director of Operations, 745th Air Expeditionary Squadron.

7. Currently the CEO, Miss California Organization.

8. Currently a Captain with American Airlines.

9. Currently a Mom of 3 under 10 years old.

So there is my resume in a nutshell….the only reason I share that with you is to give you a frame of reference for my point of view that follows.

Here are some nuggets that I would put into a Master Class on leadership.

1. If you evaluate your own leadership and have not made a misstep, you have a problem and it is your self-awareness.  I assure you that you have made a misstep.  The tendency is to try to recover from leadership errors through distraction or even pretending the mistakes were in some way intentional.  It is an incredibly effective tool to own the error  immediately, apologize if needed and move on boldly.  This approach completely shuts down any opposition and builds trust and respect in your followers.

2. If you have asked people to adjust their truth to further your narrative there is a problem with your narrative; the truth is the truth.

3. The truth also can hurt. One persons “truth” can be factually wrong but it still is their truth. As a leader you need to hear it in order to understand the relative perception of your leadership and their “followership”.  To them it is the “truth”.

4. You need people in your boat to row in the same direction to make true progress. People that are not rowing in the same direction as you, need to get out of your boat and you may need to remove them if they don’t go willingly. If you stay the course and are true to your objectives, most wrong-way rowers will eventually leave on their own.  But be warned, before you’re the leader of an empty boat, you need people to understand your “why” so that they want to row with you. Don’t force them to row with you – that only works short term.

5. Grace;  we all need it.  I define grace as the allowance to be human.  To be able to make a mistake, say something you shouldn’t have and have the opportunity to correct course without prejudice.  Perfection just isn’t going to happen but we should all be trying our best when we are failing if that makes sense.  Afford the grace to those you lead as you hope they will extend to you when you need it…and you will.

6. Finally, and most important!!  Always make decisions in the right order.  If the issue is grey, you have the luxury to look down the road as to the possible implications and decide with that in mind.  If the answer is between right and wrong then you HAVE to make the right decision now without regard to the future implications.  Let the chips fall and crisis manage each step of the way always using truth and mercy to guide the remedy.  It will be an unpleasant short term but the alternative is an unpleasant long term.

People want a leader who they are proud to have lead them, predictable, just and looking out for them. 

1. Look the part.  You should always look your best in every situation where you are representing your organization.  It lends formal authority and respect to your position. 

2. Be predictable by having unshifting standards that are the bedrock of your leadership.  Right is right; stick to it even when it is hard and unpopular.

3. That leads to justice…fairness is a fundamental part of our human condition.  People can accept leadership decisions they do not totally agree with if they think they are fair. 

4. Finally, look out for your people.  If there is a good deal to be had, pass it along to your most worthy follower.  Recognize hard work and greatness and always put yourself last; whether it be for a cash bonus or the lunch line.   Ask them to fill out critiques after everything you do and read every one.  Some of the best ideas I have had for improving a process came from a critique (you just cannot see and know everything).

Always remember that your followers will mirror the leadership modeled to them.  Expect the best from them as you should expect it of yourself and your leadership.

So there ya go……50 years of life boiled down into 10 bullet points. 

Take care until next time.


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