3 Leadership Lessons From the Ottawa Shooting

On Wednesday October 22, the unthinkable happened as a gunman opened fire on Parliament Hill, the home of Canadian government. While the men and women protecting the institution did their job perfectly, unfortunately a life was lost. My thoughts and condolences go to Cpl. Cirillo and, from Montreal, Warrant Officer Vincent’s families.

In reflecting on how the situation was handled, there are 3 leadership lessons that I think all leaders should learn.

1) Know when it’s time to step back

When shots rang out, MPs hid under desks and behind locked doors. They did not try to direct the security teams or deal with the situation themselves. As leaders, they knew it was time to let others take the lead.

This is an extreme situation, but the lesson holds true. Leaders are at their best when they are sharing their vision, passion, and excitement, motivating their teams, and leading by example. Unfortunately, some leaders believe their title gives them the power to always be in command or a false sense that they can accomplish everything on their own. Great leaders recognize when they lack the skill set, experience, or knowledge to be successful and are able to delegate or simply step back and allow their teams to shine.

2) Recognizing the team

Among the first statements made from party those in Ottawa were thanks to those who worked to keep the city and country safe. Great leaders make others feel important and appreciated, inspiring them to become the best they can be. It is important that leaders recognize their team members. This can be a simple thing such as saying good morning and checking in with them and using powerful positive language in your interactions to a bigger gesture of public recognition for contributions and reward.

3) Unify the team

The resounding message from the party leaders can be summarized by a single word: Solidarity.

“I have every confidence that Canadians will pull together with the kind of firm solidarity that has seen our country through many challenges.” – Prime Minister Stephen Harper

“Today’s events have instead only succeeded in drawing us closer, in making us stronger” – Tom Mulcair

“We will walk forward together, not apart.” – Justin Trudeau

In the aftermath of a horrific event, nationalistic pride pulls people together and we stand united in refusing to be intimidated and rally to support our men and women in uniform (support our veterans today by wearing red and join their campaign). I hope that we never have such an event occur in our office or in yours. In our organizations, we need our teams to share our vision and excitement to help us succeed. As leaders, we need to be transparent, sharing our goals, our hopes, and our fears. In doing so, we give the opportunity for others to voice their opinions and ideas, bringing everyone together to strive to achieve the organization’s goals.

In summary, leaders need to build our teams by bringing on team members who have expertise and skills we do not have and, more importantly, know when to step back and let them lead. We need to generate a culture of commitment to the company and it’s goals through transparency and collaboration, including our teams when facing challenges. Finally, we need to recognize the efforts being put forward and support our teams in exceed expectations and excel.

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