I’m not much for heights, so I probably would never use flying or being a pilot as a metaphor for leadership, though it is a pretty good one.
As a pilot, you have many lives within your span of care, taking them from one place to another. You are literally lifting those within your care up and hopefully they feel cared for and safe.
Peter Docker served for 25 years as a Royal Air Force senior officer. He has been a Force Commander during combat flying operations and has seen service across the globe. His career has spanned from professional pilot, to leading an aviation training and standards organization, teaching postgraduates at the UK’s Defense College, to flying the British prime minister around the world. He has served as a crisis manager and former international negotiator for the UK government.
You may recognize Peter from his work with our friend, Simon Sinek. Peter worked with Simon for over 7 years and was one of the founding ‘Igniters’ on Simon’s team. He took his years of practical experience to co-author Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team, with Simon and David Mead, who was recently featured on this podcast.
In December 2019, Peter stepped away from Simon’s team to focus on sharing his wider insights into how organizations thrive. He just released a new book, Leading From The Jumpseat: How to Create Extraordinary Opportunities by Handing Over Control.
Peter recently appeared on a webinar sponsored by Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute, Barry-Wehmiller’s external consulting arm who helps companies around the globe implement the principles of Truly Human Leadership.
Sara Hannah, CCO’s managing partner, interviewed Peter for this event, which we bring to you on this episode in an edited form.
Well, the jumpseat is the seat that is immediately behind the two pilot seats on a large passenger jet. You have the captain and the copilot, and then you often have this third seat, the jumpseat. It's usually empty, but crew members can catch a ride back home on that seat. That's perfectly permissible. But once you've sat there, you can actually reach out and touch the two pilots. You're that close.
The name or notion of leading from the jumpseat came from a story of an experience I had after just qualifying an aircraft captain and me being sat in that seat and just after takeoff, we had an emergency. So you just have to take off. We have an emergency. The notion of Leading from the Jumpseat, it's all about lifting others up, giving them the space so they can step up and lead. For me, this is the highest form of leadership because it's not about retaining or growing your own power. It's about empowering others.
At the end of the day, when we're working on things which we feel are really important to us, at some stage, we are going to step back. If we're the CEO of a company, we're going to retire, perhaps. If we're leading a team, we're going to step back from that team, change jobs. Or even as a parent, our kids grow up eventually, leave home, and start to lead their own lives. It's inevitable that at some stage we're going to hand over control. Leading from the Jumpseat is all about recognizing that and leading in such a way, with such intention, that we're preparing people to lead and to take forward those things that we feel are really important to us.
I know that the phrase lifting people up is kind of part of your core purpose, how you've filtered and made decisions about the work that you do. Can you talk more about where that comes from, why that's important to you?
Yeah. Well, actually, it's quite difficult to say exactly the reason I feel that way. But I know it's part of who I am because whenever I see anybody excelling or exceeding their own or other people's expectations, it just completely fills me up. It's quite ridiculous, frankly, Sara. I think watching the Olympics, I don't know the athletes from Adam, but when I see the relief and the joy on their face when they cross the finish line or clear the bar in high jump, whatever, I'm right there with them. I well up.
It's no surprise, perhaps, that some of my favorite films reflect that. Hidden Figures is one, which follows the early days of the American space program and celebrates the brilliance of three women who, at the time, were not treated perhaps as they should've been. That is one of my favorite films. Apollo 13, there's great leadership lessons from there, from that film. But, again, it's people being extraordinary in what they do. Yeah, that really gets me right here. Because of that, what I do in life, I have the great privilege and honor to help people often get out of their own way and excel in ways that perhaps they couldn't previously imagine. But it's all about them. It's about what fills their heart, and just being able to allot that is what fills me with joy.
I like the fact that now I found out that you also tear up at the Olympics. If I'm being honest, the commercials, too, because the marketers are all over that one.
Yeah, I know that.
A lot of the stories in Leading from the Jumpseat center on your career as a commander in the Royal Air Force. You make a myriad of decisions when you're in that type of a role, but can you talk about perhaps a leadership decision that you made, that perhaps, upon reflection, you would redo? Something that you decided that if you could go back and rewrite the script, that you would actually make a different decision.
Yeah. I can, actually. First off, the military side of it, a lot of the stories in the book, there are a quite a few about the military. Quite a few situations I've faced in emergency crisis situations on airplanes. Yeah, it makes a good story. But the point of telling those stories is because it brings out lessons that show how people behave when they're at the extreme of human existence. In my experience, that's when you see people's true colors. The lessons we learn in those situations can help us in everyday life, where, hopefully, our lives are not on the line, because people are still people.
But coming back to your question, one big time I made a decision that ... Well, I don't regret it so much because I learned something from it. But it was when I took over my squadron. The squadron is the main fighting unit of the Royal Air Force and most other air forces in the world. It's a huge privilege to be given command of the squadron. I mean, the one I had, one squadron dated back to 1917. You've got all that history and legacy to carry forward.
But, at the time, when I took over that squadron, I took over from a guy called Ian, who was and still is a brilliant guy. Huge charisma. He was great in his job. Everybody loved him, and the squadron seemed to be doing great. Somewhere in the deep recess of my mind, I figured out that in order for me to be successful, I needed to mirror Ian. But, of course, as you would imagine, that didn't really work out terribly well because it wasn't who I am. Even if others can't put that into words, who you're being, if it doesn't feel right to other people, then not only is it awkward. It starts to break down other things, particularly trust.
Many people who had known me when I was a more junior officer and before I took over the squadron, they knew who I was. In other words, they knew how I showed up. And then they didn't recognize this guy who'd taken over the squadron that had my name, because I wasn't being who I truly was. So that wasn't a great decision of mine. It took me about six months to figure out be yourself because everybody else is taken, as someone once said.
Once I started to relax into that, then I started to rebuild the trust, and things started to go much better. Do I regret it? Well, at the time, I think I could've done better. But we learn from these things, don't we? I think that's the important thing about leadership. It's not about getting it right, whatever right looks like. It's not about getting it right all the time. What's really important is your intention. Are you sorting yourself in the right place? Are you in service of your people? Also, it's the trends over time. We'll all have a few glitches along the way, but if your intention and the trends is heading in the right direction, you're okay. We're all human. We do-
One of the core concepts of the book is this idea of a stand versus a position and how important it is, both from a personal standpoint of literally what do I stand for, but also because of how it impacts people. Can you explain the difference between the two, or give us an experience of a stand versus a position?
Yeah. Certainly. There are a quite a few distinctions in language that I use in the book because when we have distinctions in language, it helps us to have different conversations, and then we can get different results. Stand in position is one of the distinctions I've picked up over my years. It's very easy. Well, a position is against something. A stand is for something. So let's dig into that a little bit.
The best example, actually, is we've got very narrow streets. We live in the countryside here in England, and there's a narrow road that leads through the fields to our village. There's only really enough space for one vehicle going in each direction. Sometimes you'll get two vehicles. They'll touch almost bumper to bumper, and quite often, their drivers will take a position against the other person. That looks like, well, you were driving too fast. My journey is more important than yours. You should reverse back to the passing place. What happens with positions, we get more and more entrenched in those positions.
But then, every so often, one of those people immediately reverses up to the passing place, because that person, she has got a stand, and that stand is for being courteous on the road. The really interesting thing is that as soon as she reverses up because of her stand, the position the other guy had immediately dissolves because the position can only exist when there's a counterposition.
But what happens to the lady's stand? That actually is intensified. It becomes more of her foundation as she practices it, and it doesn't depend on anyone or anything else to exist. The reason the position on something is so important is that in terms of leadership, particularly when we're leading in unfamiliar territory or in a crisis, having a very clear understanding of what we stand for, and there could be many things that we stand for, but having a clear understanding of that, it gives us the guardrail, the handrail that we need to figure out which direction to go in when we're in unfamiliar territory, to lead better. So that's the position and the stand distinction. They're really important.
I have a couple of questions on that, both from the side of the person who's making the position and the person who's making the stand. What prevents us from shifting from position to stand, other than just not thinking that way? What are the underlying emotional qualities that prevent us or lock us into our position?
Everything. Everything that's important to us in life is driven by one of two things. It's driven by the fear, or it's driven by love. Now, as soon as I mention the love word, people in business recoil a bit. But I'll come back to that. What fear looks like, how fear shows up in our lives, is, well, often ego. When the pressure's on. In the example of my two cars stopping bumper to bumper, the ego of it's all about me. I think ego's Greek for I. We discount other people.
Anger comes into fear as well. Or we see the world as a place of scarcity. Or we could go the other way, timidity. The thing with fear is that fear is triggered in us when our life, our livelihood, our status or reputation, is threatened. Fear can be good. If we're about to step out to the road, and we suddenly see a car, that fear will have us react and probably save our life. But fear can get in the way when it's actually our livelihood, status, or reputation. There is the trigger.
But then we have love. When we're sorting ourselves from love, well, we have a view of the world of opportunity and possibility, of hope. We have a view of the world where we're in service of others. It's not about me. Instead of ego, we have what I call humble confidence, where we have the humility to listen to other people, and yet we're confident in being decisive and being focused on perhaps our stand, our commitment, where we're going.
The thing that is interesting between love and fear is that we have a choice. We always have a choice as to where we're going to sort ourselves from. We can sort ourselves from fear as in the person taking up a position of you get out of my way. Or we can choose to sort ourselves from love, from a stand in what we believe in. What joins these things is courage. Courage can't exist without fear, but courage can only be sustained by love.
Let's take it to one of those extreme situations, in an emergency in an aeroplane, or taking people into combat. Anybody who's not fearful in those situations, well, you probably need your head looked at a little bit. But it generates the courage, and people continue to, in these cases of a combat situation, put themselves in harm's way for the love of the people around them. That's what has to move forward. Not fear. It's love.
It's the same with the terrible photographs and video we see of typically women clutching their young child as they escape some war-torn area like Syria. The fear of what might happen if they stay triggers them. But then they find the courage and the love of their child to step into the unknown and flee to hopefully safer areas. So this is key. This is what drives ... If we allow it, if we choose, we can be driven by love. And that is much more generative than fear. So that's the emotional side of it.
Can you give me an example of, from a leadership perspective, how either you or that you've observed somebody taking a stand that allowed people to move from fear to love? If I'm in a situation in which both are present and I'm leading, I'm in that leadership state, and I need this group to move from one scenario to the other, how does taking a stand help others?
Well, the example that immediately comes to mind, Sara, is when I was a commander in the Iraq War 2003. I had 200 people under my care. We were out in Saudi. Our job, it wasn't very exciting, in some ways. It wasn't a punchy aeroplane. We flew a big aircraft, about the size of a 737, full of fuel, gas, to give away where our refuelers. So we gave away that fuel to fighter jets in the air. We were undefended. We didn't have weapons and anti-aircraft guns to shoot at us from the ground, which was a bit irritating after a while. But, thankfully, they didn't hit us very often. So yeah, we were fearful, I'm sure. But I was their leader.
This is where a distinction I picked up from Seth Godin, actually, which was a huge relief when I heard about it, because it filled in a missing piece of my jigsaw. And that was the difference between being authentic and being ... well, having integrity. We hear a lot, particularly in companies and leadership conversations, about being authentic. But, as Seth says, you lose the right to be authentic when you're about four years old. A four-year-old child's authentic, screaming because they're hungry, or something hurts, or they want attention. But later on, we need to put a filter there.
It's particularly the case when you're in a role of leadership. You have that senior position where people are expecting you to lead. I could've been absolutely authentic and shared my fears, concerns, apprehensions, with the rest of my team, but that wouldn't have been in service of them. I had to have the integrity of the role that I've been given, and that meant putting a filter on.
This comes to your question, Sara, because I had to have that integrity to share with my people a stand. And that stand was I needed everyone, from the aircraft technicians to the aircraft pilots and crew, to do their job, because people were relying on the fuel that they would give to the fighter jets. The reason they're relying on the fighter jets getting their fuel was people who wore British, American, Australian uniforms on the ground in Iraq were relying on the air support that we could give them. If we didn't give them that air support, they would likely die.
So in very simple words, very similar to that, that's what I told my people, because they needed a clear signal. In all the noise of what was going on, the politics and the newspapers, they needed a clear signal of what are we doing here? What can we latch onto? What's our stand? I didn't have that language back then. But by luck, perhaps more than judgment, I gave them that stand. Because it came genuinely from me, they believed me. Then that gave them the energy, the stand that they could feed off, too. As you know, Sara, anything really to do with leadership, it always starts right here. That's the example that comes to mind.
You mentioned that might be what we say or what we articulate. I'm going to give everybody a reason for being in this moment. We talked about perhaps what makes that difficult internally. You mentioned the phrase, the humble confidence. So it's not just that I am taking a stand. It's also this idea that I do it in a particular way that draws people to me, and not as a position does, distance me from others. Can you talk about how you define humble confidence? How does one acquire it? Where does it come from? Why is that concept important?
One of the biggest things for me with humble confidence is the willingness to listen. Quite often, we have this idea in our mind that to lead successfully, we need to have the answer. But, actually, if your leadership depends on you knowing the answer, you become the constriction in the pipe. Your team can only advance as fast as you do. However, if you become comfortable with leading when you don't know the answer and instead create the space where others can step up to help you figure it out, then you're more likely to accelerate your team forward much further and much faster than you otherwise would.
Listening is a really key concept of humble confidence, but very quickly, a great example of humble confidence in action for me was shortly after my 25th birthday. I was a first officer and copilot flying these passenger jets. We'd flown down to Nairobi in Kenya. We made our approach around about 7:00 in the morning. A few miles from touchdown, we put the wheels down as you do on aircraft, about eight miles from touchdown. The wheels take about 30 seconds to come down, and you get three green lights when they're locked down in the landing position. We got a green light for the nose wheel, a green light for the right-hand wheel, but a red light remains for the left-hand wheel, which meant that the left-hand wheel had not come down.
The long story short, we spent about two and a half hours with the excess fuel we had trying to get this wheel done. It did not want to come down. All of the fail-safe drills that we had, it did not work. So we were faced with briefing the 140 passengers that we were going to have to crash land, which, as you can imagine, they were thrilled about. We weren't too mad about it, either. But in this moment, when we tried everything, the captain, Tony Webb, he was an experienced captain, and he led with humble confidence. He turned to me, and he said, "Peter, I want you to fly the crash landing."
Now, anybody who doesn't know the wider context of that would think, well, hang on. Wasn't the captain abdicating his responsibility? Was he unsure? Was he timid? Was he afraid? No, none of that. The wider context was that while Tony was a very experienced captain, he wasn't that experienced on that aircraft type. I, on the other hand, had gotten thousands of hours on that aeroplane, that particular type. I was also, at the time, at the top of my game. I was one of the few pilots who flew our prime minister around, the British equivalent of Air Force One. Also, as it happens, two weeks prior, I'd been in the simulator practicing crash landings. So it was a very good choice to make. But it took humble confidence.
Humble confidence is not about being timid. He had listened to all the input. We'd tried everything we could, and then he thought, all right, well, Peter is best-equipped to fly. I'm now going to support Peter to do that job because he was driven from the love of his stand, which was to take care of everybody on that aircraft. What is the best chance we have of walking away from this? He wasn't timid at all. He was decisive, and he was resolute. He gave me the support I needed to fly the approach. And, by the way, my respect for Tony after went through the roof, because that was a big call. It worked out.
Are you going to leave us hanging? What happened?
Oh, right. So-
You're here, so I guess it worked out.
It worked out. We flew the approach, or I flew the approach, and about 30-45 seconds from touchdown, there was a clunk. For an unknown reason, we don't know to this day, we got a green light, and that wheel under the left wing came down and locked in position. I made one of the smoothest landings I think I've ever made. So yeah. Then we went to the bar. It worked out. But that, for me, is a great example of humble confidence because it would've been so easy for ego to have kicked in and for Tony to say, "Well, I'm going to do this." Everybody around him would've known you're not the best person to be doing this, probably. So not humble confidence.
Yeah. I would imagine expectation, when we carry a particular title or a role, one of the things that gets in the way is that people expect me to be the one to make the tough call, or expect me to be the one to do the crash landing. And yes, ego, but also perhaps something that is my perception that's not really true.
Yeah. Perceptions are a great thing, aren't they? I think having a very clear understanding of what we stand for in this case, getting everybody on the ground safely, that's going back to an earlier part of our conversation, Sara. That is the important handrail that we need in those times because it gives us the clarity of thought that we need to make the best decisions we can in the moment, particularly in times of crisis or in situations which are new to us. So yeah, it all comes back to the stand.
What would you say to people who are having difficulty translating from in a cockpit, the roles are very clearly defined. You have titles like captain and what have you. If you're in an environment that either you are not the leader or it's just murky at best, do these principles apply, and how so?
Absolutely. The book, it's a how-to book. In the same way as I share a lot of stories from my background, the stories are there for purpose, to bring out a leadership theme or idea. But similarly, I recognize that people are going to be in different stages of their life careers. So I've taken the flying metaphor on a little bit. The reason why flying is, in my view, a really good metaphor is because the flight deck of an aircraft is like a microcosm of leadership. You get some of the best leadership I've ever seen, and, frankly, you can get some pretty poor leadership, too. So it's quite a good vehicle to share these leadership ideas.
At the end of each main chapter in the book, I've shared some things for us to consider in terms of how to put into action the ideas that I've shared in that chapter. I break it down into four sections. The first is Learning To Fly. The second is Flying. And then we've got Teaching Others To Fly, and finally, Leading from the Jumpseat. First of all, Learning To Fly, that would be very much perhaps people at an earlier stage in their life, where they're trying to figure out what's really, really important to them, what's really important in life. For some of us, that comes fairly early on. For others, it takes quite a few more years. But until we're really clear on what's important to us, then it's difficult to identify what our stands are and what commitments we're going to make. Therefore, it's more difficult to lead others. But most of us will get there.
Then we move on to the next stage, Flying. That is the equivalent, perhaps, of you're really good at a particular job. You've been hired by a company to do that job. Flying is when you're in flow. You're really good at that, and you're thriving in it. You're practicing what you stand for. You're practicing your skills. We will probably get promoted if we're really good. And then we are into the stage what I refer to as Teaching Others To Fly. Well, chances are we're not focused on doing computer programming if that was our original job. We're now looking after people who are doing that role. We need to teach them to fly and start to lift them up. The focus shifts from ourselves more to other people.
But then, eventually, we will get to the stage where we're very senior in the company, or we're taking a big step back. I'll be talking to a CEO of a company in a couple of weeks who is retiring from his company. We all leave at some stage. But that's when we are Leading from the Jumpseat and when we can bring together all of these ideas. The kicker or the interesting thing for me is when I was writing this, I suddenly realized, you know what? We're not all on this linear track. In some areas in our life, we might be teaching others to fly. But in other areas of life, we might still be learning to fly ourselves.
A great leader I worked with, Lieutenant General Sir James Dutton, a very, very senior military guy and former Governor for the Queen to Gibraltar, the country Gibraltar, I worked with him 20-plus years ago, and he lifted other people up. He was very much in the mode of lead from the jumpseat. But over the last few months, I've been working with him as he's transitioning to becoming a speaker. So he's learning to fly again, and he's that senior. So we're on different tracks on different parts of our lives. There's things that we can put into practice, well, around leading from the jumpseat, no matter where we are on those tracks in life.
Well, I think one of the arenas in which people, myself included, are perpetually learning to fly is in parenthood. For those of us who have children, you tell some stories in the book, certainly. Could you give us an example of where you've taken some of this into your parenting journey, in particular around the concept of shifting the context, which is another skillset that's in the book? How do we do that for our kids? How do we perhaps reframe how they see some situations?
Yeah. Well, context is everything. Like fear and love, I like things in twos. There's context and content. Content is all the jigsaw puzzle pieces on the table. That represents the work we do, the things that we say, what we're engaged in. But then, context is like the picture on the box of the jigsaw puzzle. We need that picture so we can see how those puzzle pieces come together. As leaders, we really need to focus on that context. Sometimes we need to turn over the puzzle pieces to find a different picture on the other side. I mean, turn over the puzzle box, and there's a different picture, and the puzzle pieces come together, but they have a different meaning. So that's shifting the context.
One story that comes to mind in answer to your question, Sara, is when my son Patrick, he became 18. In the UK, when you get to the age of 18, you can graduate from riding a small little moped motorbike to a big bike. Patrick wanted a big bike. He wanted a Suzuki Bandit that would go from nought to 60 in three and a half seconds and do over a 120 miles-
Every parent's dream, right?
Oh, God. Now, it's risky in many countries, but around here, where the streets are narrow and twisty, one of Patrick's friends had almost lost his life a few years earlier. So yeah, we were concerned. My initial context came from fear, and also, I immediately in my head went to a position which was no way are you going to do that, was what was in my head. But if I'd gone down that path, it's very likely that Patrick would've taken up a counterposition, which was I am going to do this. I'm 18, whether you like it or not. I want to get out and see my friends, and this gives me mobility and all that.
So I shifted the context. Actually, it was sourced from this side, from the love side. I thought, well, what's the underlying commitment around this position that's coming into my head? My underlying commitment was for Patrick being safe. That's what was driving me. So I chose to lead with that. I said to Patrick, "Look, what we'll do is you can get this bike. In fact, I've seen one on the market secondhand. We'll buy it. It'll sit in the shed until we're ready." I said, "You'll go through all the training, and I'll come and do that training with you. But we won't just do the basic training. We'll go on and do the advanced rider training that you can do in this country and become an advanced rider. We'll do that together, too." Patrick probably thought, you know what? Being an advanced rider, that sounds pretty good to me. Yeah.
It's a done deal.
Well, and me, too. Yeah. But we set off down that path, and it's quite lengthy training. Some way into it, Patrick came to me. He said, "You know what? I've had a think about this. By the time I've paid for the insurance and everything else, the cost of this bike, I'm not going to be able to put fuel in it and go anywhere." He said, "I'm going to get a car instead." This is a real example of quite a tough leadership challenge which could've had one predictable outcome if I'd led with a position. Instead, I shifted the context and led from a place of a stand, and lots of possibilities emerged there. Yes, we had good fun on the training that we did. It brought us closer together. We created opportunities that perhaps wouldn't have been there otherwise. It's exactly the same in business and in a team and, well, crisis situations, too.
One question that's come through is around this idea that in that story that you just told, there's a little bit of inherent risk. You still might get the bike, and you still might ... Now, you've been trained. We've agreed that we're going to be safe. But perhaps still an accident happens, that it ends up where you thought it would in the very beginning. And leadership, it could look like I feel like I've trained you, I feel like I'm ready to give up control, but a mistake happens. It doesn't go so well. What's the advice, the guidance, for leaders who are like, "Man, I'm teetering on that edge of do I let you go down this path when it might end up that you weren't ready? Did everything I could. Prepped you. You're trained. But it actually might not end up the way that you want"?
That makes me think, Sara, of ... It's another story in the book, because we remember stories, don't we? But there was a time, and this is a flying story again. I was the captain of the aircraft. I had a copilot who was fine. He was fully trained, but he wasn't that experienced. We were flying this approach into Gander, in Newfoundland. The weather can be a little bit, well, not great, to be honest.
When you're flying an approach to many large airports, you have what are called precision approach indicators. These are four lights on one side or either side of the runway. They can show either red, or they can show white. The idea is for you to see two red lights and two white lights because that tells you that you're on the correct approach slope to land safely. If you see three white lights, you're going too high. If you see three red lights, you're going too low. If you see four red lights, you're way too low, and it's dangerous.
The chap in question was flying the approach, and we started out with two red lights and two white lights. All good. On the correct approach path. But then we got three red lights. Not too good. Going low. So I called out to him. I said, "We're going low on the approach." He acknowledged that he didn't take the corrective action, which was to put a bit more power on from the engines, which slows your rate of descent down and would put us back on the correct approach path.
I let him continue because it wasn't dangerous at that point. But then we got to the point where we saw four red lights. Now, we're still a long way back. We're still safe. But it's getting to the point where if I allowed it to go any further, using all my skill that I have, I wouldn't have been able to recover the situation. Even then, I didn't take over because if I had, I would've burst his balloon and confidence, and that's a very difficult thing to get back. So I called it out again. He didn't take corrective action, and I just nudged the throttles forward. We got back to the state where we saw two red lights and two white, and we landed safely. We had a talk about it afterwards, and all was good.
The point of this story is whenever we're facing these situations, we need to know what is your four red light moment? When do you reach that point where, if you allow the other person to continue, you are not going to be able to recover the situation safely? I give quite a lot of guidance in the book about this because it's a really important point. Well, the first thing to ask yourself is does it matter? Because often, it doesn't matter, in which case, let the person continue. You can talk about it afterwards, and they'll learn from it, because we all learn from our mistakes, or we have the opportunity to.
If it's going to really threaten our lives or it's going to threaten other people or bring our company down, we need to know what that four red light moment is so that we can step in, because at that point, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, which I think is Spock, isn't it, from Star Trek? But either way, it's true. That's where we need to be clear on what we stand for, what's guiding us, that handrail. Just like Tony Webb recognized that it wasn't him that was important on that aircraft when we couldn't get the wheels down. It was the safety of all the 145 people on board. That's why knowing what our stands are is so important, and knowing what our four red lights moments is so important, too.
We talked a lot about a variety of different concepts. Could you give us what are three specific action items that anybody could do tomorrow? If you were like, "Conceptually, I understand. I want to shift, perhaps, to more leading from the jumpseat," what are three tactical things that people could do tomorrow to make some progress?
Sure. The first thing is, well, it all comes down to the person in the mirror, doesn't it? The first thing is to reflect a little bit. I know people don't like to reflect because we like to get on and get into action, don't we? But it comes down to figuring out what's really, really important to you. A quick example on this. Two years ago, I had a phone call from my wife. She'd been in a car accident. Thankfully, she was okay, but she needed my help. Now, nothing would've got in my way to leaving the house and driving to go and help her. It was only a couple of miles down the road. But nothing would've gotten in my way. Why? Because family is really important to me. That is something that's really important to many people.
What I find interesting is the fire that ignites society, because when you're connected to what's really, really important to you, there is nothing that's going to get in your way. As you'll read in the book, other things that are really important to me, which came to light as I went through my other life, was not being dependent on others. By that, I mean not holding other people back or needing to call on them, being a burden to people. That was one of my things that drives me, something that's really important. Another is the notion of mutual respect. Again, as you're reading the book, understanding that, becoming aware of that, had me take a very different path. I actually had to leave university midcourse. So figuring out what's really, really important to you is the starting point because that is the foundation of everything else.
We can practice humble confidence as well. We can practice humble confidence by listening and making sure we keep that ego thing in check, and being willing to allow others to come up with the solution or an answer to a challenge we're facing. That can apply if we're running a big team, a small team, or just at home with our kids. It applies everywhere. Practice switching humble confidence for ego, being willing to listen, but also remaining decisive and focused on the reason that you're trying to do whatever it is you're trying to do as a team or a group. Yeah. Letting go of the notion of you're always going to have the answer.
And then, perhaps, a third thing is based around one of the other key themes of the book, which is nurturing a sense of belonging. This is absolutely key in a team if we want people to step up and take responsibility for things and to lead, well, without waiting to be told what to do. The way we nurture a sense of belonging is actually showing that we really care. This goes beyond empathy. This is really caring. Now, what does that look like? Well, it can be often something very, very simple.
During the Iraq War, the people under my command, I would find time to sit down back against a wall outside somewhere in the desert, with some of the most junior people one-to-one, and just check in with them. Just a few minutes. I mean, I wasn't doing it for any reason other than I wanted to connect with the guy and check that he was okay, check how's things at home or out here. It leads into when I talk about being significant. Quite often, we think we have to do big things to make a significant difference. But often it's the smallest, smallest thing.
It's like a pebble in the pond. The ripples can go out and go far. That is what it means to care. We can throw that pebble in the pond, and the ripple effect can go on way, way beyond what we could ever imagine and hope for. When people feel that they belong, when the people they look towards really cares for them, then it unlocks the potential and the energy and the drive. They start to source themselves from this side of the equation, from the love side, for something rather than fear of something.