Wednesday, April 4, 2012

8 Leadership lessons I learned from saving a lady's life | part 1

This is kind of like falling right? | 2008 Kailua Kona Hawaii | 20d

I asked Jess what the title of this blog post should be, and I shared with her a couple that I had been working with. She blurted out the title that we chose in a dramatic voice and said, "Mise well be dramatic, it's the title, right?" Right indeed. 

Sunday night, Nate, a fellow staff member and I were in the baggage claim area of the Honolulu airport.  We were talking to our student Patrick, who had just arrived from the Congo as we were waiting for his bags.

I saw an elderly lady, trying to take a large bag off of the conveyor belt.  The bag was too heavy for her and the conveyor was moving too fast.  I started walking towards her because I could see that she needed help.  

She let go of the bag and then tripped over her purse.  She stumbled backwards and I caught her as she fell, softening her blow.  As she laid in my arms, with a startled look on her face, she looked up at me and said “Thank you for saving me.”

Nate came over and we helped the lady to her feet.  I asked her if she was okay.  Still startled, she replied, "I was just afraid because I've already had both hips replaced."  During the fall, her carryon bag handle got bent and would not go back down.  

We got her large bag for her as it came around again on the conveyor belt and we sent her on her way.  

In hindsight, I realized this situation had some great leadership lessons:  Here are 4, I will share the other 4 on friday.  

1.  Be aware of what is happening around you.  
Even though I was having a conversation, I could see the lady struggling with her bag on conveyor belt.  

Be aware of what is going on in your organization.  Being observant could possibly help you stop problems before they start.

2.  Move towards potential problems.  
Since I saw that this woman struggling I moved in her direction to help.  

Simply moving towards a potential problem can help dissolve a situation before it becomes a much bigger problem.  Best case scenario: I would have been able to help this woman get her bag without her falling at all.  
If I would not have seen the potential problem, and starting moving towards her to help, I would not have been there to catch the lady when she fell. 

When you see a potential problem, be an initiator and walk towards the problem.  Proximity will help you be more effective than trying to deal with a problem from a distance.  

3.  Surround yourself with a team that is ready to jump in.  
Nate came over immediately as he saw me catching this falling woman.  We both helped her up.  

Having a team that is ready to jump in and help provide aide in any situation is always a blessing.  It lightens everyones load.  

4.  Fully resolve the situation.  
We asked her if she was okay.  As we talked with her, Nate tried to fix the broken handle on her carryon, and we got the heavy bag off of the conveyor belt for her.  

Ask if the all parties involved are okay, comfort, and resolve any further problems. 

Engage: Have you ever helped a stranger in public?  Share your story in the comments!


  1. i've given medical advice and helped some older ladies carry luggage, but I've never saved a woman like this. way to be alert, jim. looking forwards to the next post

  2. Great post!  And great lessons on leadership.


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