Preparedness may be one of the most important traits you can develop as a leader. Navy Seals know this trait very well, as they say, “two is one and one is none”. This mantra means you are ready for any situation. It means you have a backup if you lose or break gear, encounter unexpected conditions or need to help others. For all that can surprise you in the field or in life, you need a backup. In fact, having a backup for the backup is even better.
This level of preparedness is a great practice for any situation. Being prepared demonstrates strategic thinking and it puts you in a position to lead. It signifies you are proactive and anticipating what may be needed for any scenario. You acquire and carry the tools needed to attain your goals, no matter the obstacles. Others naturally follow you because you’re prepared. When others fail because they don’t have what is needed to survive, you have the ability to keep moving forward.
How many times have you heard about people lost while driving or hiking and they come close to death? Unfortunately, sometimes they do die in these situations. People come to rely on their mobile devices so much that they forget to carry a paper map. Or they underestimate how extreme the weather can become. Or a myriad of other circumstances build up to put them in risky situations, none for which they are prepared. When your mobile device dies or doesn’t get a signal, it’s an example of ‘one is none’. It’s useless to have that one item if it doesn’t work. Having a backup is necessary for every situation.
I study and practice using my survival skills. I’m not a full-blown prepper, but I’ll admit that I’m a little over the top when it comes to preparedness. My wilderness survival skills, first aid training, self-defense abilities and situational awareness usually make me the go-to person when others need help. I like to help others when they are in need, but it’s frustrating when others put themselves in situations that leave them unacceptably under-prepared.
I’ll use an experience I commonly have while hiking as an example. I don’t usually like busy trails, but sometimes they are unavoidable when I want to hike to something specific like waterfalls or landmarks. Every time I’ve hiked these well-traveled trails, I find others who come so ill prepared that I wonder if they’ll even find their way back to the trailhead. They wear flip-flops for multiple-mile trails that have varying terrain and elevation. They have no water. They have no first aid. They have no maps (although most of these trails are well marked). They have no clue what could wrong. And, they carry infants or take toddlers along with them, with no idea what the trail is like or if they can even make the trek. The one thing they always have is their cell phone, which, ironically, rarely works on these trails. Inevitably, they realize they are surrounded by wilderness, tired, thirsty and somewhat lost. I am consistently asked, “how do I get back to the parking lot”, “what’s down that trail” or “how much higher does this trail go”. I explain the trail marking system, let them know they are in for a more difficult hike than they expected and take their picture for them on their cell phone.
When in the wild or in a professional setting (sometimes it’s difficult to tell the two scenarios apart), the person that is most prepared often becomes the leader by default. Others gravitate to the person with the most tools, gadgets, knowledge, food and water, whatever is needed to survive. The person with the most usually becomes the group leader because that person has what others need or want.
Why, then, do those in leadership positions often overlook the basic survival trait of preparedness? Perhaps some are too proud to admit that Plan A may not work, or that they hired the wrong person, or maybe they didn’t do enough research. It’s not a failure to have to use Plan B or C or W. It is, however, a failure to not have those backup plans.
A two-is-one leader not only demonstrates preparedness for him or her self, but also gives those around them the tools they need to succeed. Are you prepared to be the leader or are you going to rely on someone else to provide you with the knowledge, gear, direction and whatever else you may need to not only survive, but to thrive?
Belinda Gates, ACC
Belinda's leadership development and executive coaching services support engineers, utilities, contractors and manufacturing companies as well as other corporate clients and non-profit organizations.