Lights Out, Lessons On: How a Power Outage Shaped My Understanding of Leadership

Lights Out, Lessons On: How a Power Outage Shaped My Understanding of Leadership

Trusting and listening to your team is invaluable, but there’s more to effective leadership than meets the eye. 

Allow me to share a brief leadership lesson based on a personal experience.

During the early years of my career, my main objective was to become an exceptional radio technician. 

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Starting with zero skills or knowledge, the thirst for learning, gaining experience, and seeking opportunities drove me forward. 

Task by task, project by project, I followed a simple success formula for technicians: acquire knowledge, deliver high-quality work, and pursue further education during my free time.

After many years and earning my bachelor’s degree, I finally secured a highly sought-after “Leadership” position. 

This role came with admiration and respect from others. At this stage, I had developed a deep appreciation for the front-line supervisors, technicians, and teams who made our work possible. 

Taking on a leadership position meant that I could better serve those who dedicated themselves to their roles.

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To put it simply, I was promoted to the role of Information Technology (IT) Director. 

Suddenly, my life changed from performing routine radio checks to leading a team of thirty network professionals. 

This team encompassed an impressive range of ages, spanning from 20 to 64 years old. 

Leading such a diverse group presented a myriad of challenges, pushing me to develop new interpersonal skills often referred to as “soft skills” — the ability to listen, understand, and effectively communicate.

Every day, I endeavored to be the best leader I could and improve as an individual. 

By reading, studying, learning, and leading, I gained invaluable experience. 

One consistent theme emerged from the leadership literature I absorbed: the importance of listening, empowering, and trusting your team.

One eventful day, my team informed me about an upcoming power maintenance that would result in a complete outage in our telecommunications building. 

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As the decision-maker, my team relied on me for guidance. 

Trusting their expertise, I asked for their recommendation and they unanimously agreed it was best to proceed with the maintenance.

However, something didn’t sit right, prompting me to delve deeper into the situation.

To my surprise, they mentioned the presence of uninterruptible power supplies that should have kept our systems running during the maintenance. 

At face value, their response seemed satisfactory, suggesting this maintenance was routine. 

We discussed the potential consequences and developed strategic messaging to inform our base. 

Everything seemed in order, leading me to confidently communicate our plan to my superiors and receive their approval.

Despite this assurance, our entire company experienced a one-hour network service outage. 

It was a nightmare scenario where phone calls, emails, and access to services came to a halt. 

The blame fell squarely on me, intensifying the pain and embarrassment I felt, especially considering the impact it had on my team. 

My boss wasted no time in demanding an explanation.

This incident marked a significant failure in my leadership journey, serving as a pivotal moment for reflection. 

Although we were able to restore services relatively quickly, the scars left by this experience reminded me of the vital necessity to consider the broader consequences of my decisions.

I learned the importance of analyzing second, third, and even fourth-order effects before making crucial decisions. 

While listening to my team remained essential, I realized that I needed to go beyond that and gather all necessary information to thoroughly evaluate the potential outcomes. 

In hindsight, there were numerous questions I should have asked: 

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When were the uninterruptible supplies last serviced? 

How long could their batteries last? 

Could we reroute services or bring external generators for maintenance? 

The list goes on. 

Trusting your team is crucial, but as a leader, it’s your responsibility to understand the bigger picture.

Merely relying on initial recommendations or assumptions was no longer sufficient. 

This experience exposed the limitations of theoretical knowledge alone and taught me that nothing engraves lessons into your mind quite like facing defeat, encountering pain, and enduring the humiliation that accompanies failure.

These humbling moments shape us, instilling resilience, caution, and guiding us to make more thoughtful and informed decisions in similar scenarios. 

To summarize, the leadership lesson I extracted from this failure is the paramount importance of analyzing second, third, and fourth-order effects before making decisions. 

Leaders must surpass listening to their team and gather comprehensive information to accurately assess potential consequences. 

This approach ensures decision makers consider the broader impact and minimizes the risk of unintended adverse outcomes.

Thank you for reading!

Brandon

 

 

 

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