Byron's Babbles

Oh Shit! Outer Banks Leadership Moments

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 31, 2013


Every year I write a post (or two or three) from reflections and study time while on spring break. This year will be no different. The context from where I am doing my reflecting and studying is different, however. Even though we absolutely love camping on the beach, as we had done for the last ten years, in Destin, Florida; we decided to retrace the journey of the Wright Brothers and go to the Outer Banks and camp on the beach near where the first flight took place.

To make this experience a major geography lesson we started near Richmond, Indiana where Wilbur Wright was born and went to high school. Then we were off to Dayton, Ohio to view the bicycle shop where the dream of flying began to develop in the brothers. Now, we did not stop the learning here!

As a lover of I researched the best book on the Wright Brothers for us to listen to on the 15 hour trip in our RV to North Carolina. We chose To Conquer The Air: The Wright Brothers And The Great Race For Flight by James Tobin. Let me say this is an outstanding book that takes the reader from birth to death of the brothers. We even learned why Wilber chose Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk, NC to make all the test flights leading up to success in 1903.

While learning about the brothers quest for flight we learned that it had nothing to do with the desire for money or fame, but all to do with their love of studying and invention. Also, their “Why” was in the right place. They imagined what life would be like if we were able to fly. Hearing this I immediately thought of one of the greatest leadership books ever written: The Radical Leap Re-energized: Doing What You Love In The Service of People Who Love What You Do by Steve Farber. So, I decided to read the book again on the beach close to the site of the Wright Brothers first flight for the third time. This is a must read leadership book for a person like me called to be a leader of a turnaround school!

There are three main parts of the book I want to touch on in this post. The first is the concept of the word LEAP. Farber explains this as “Love. Energy. Audacity. Proof.” Enough said! Wilbur and Orville Wright certainly possessed these qualities. As do all great leaders.

Secondly, I love Farber’s concept of OS!Ms – Oh Shit! Moments. Now I cannot imagine any leaders having more Oh Shit! moments than Wilbur and Orville Wright. Just imagine the glider coming off the ground for the first time and coming down Kill Devil Hill for the first time. Anyone, including me, would have said, “Oh Shit!”

Which brings me to the third point, and probably the most important – great leaders are not afraid to fail! They are not only not afraid to fail, but not afraid to fail openly, publicly, and often. In Tobin’s book we learned the Wright Brothers failed often, but always found ways to learn from the failures and improve the first flying machine. They would even go to the beach and study the birds to get new ideas and solve issues with the gliders. All this because of their LEAP of faith – LOVE, ENERGY, AUDACITY, AND PROOF!

A quote from Farber’s book will serve best as a summary of this blog post: “If I love who we are, and if I love what we can be, then I’ll love the process of how we get there. And in order to make it all happen, I will act boldly and courageously and I will, at times, fail magnificently. But my love demands that I try. Demands it.” Does your love of your leadership demand that you keep leading with audacity and no fear of failure?

I want to be the audacious madman leader that Farber described in contrast with just being a pro when he said, “A pro does as well as he can within what he has set out to do, and a madman does exceptionally well at what he can’t help doing!” I want to be considered a madman, just like the people of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s thought the Wright Brothers were.

My Easter wish for you is that you take a LEAP and become a Madman or Madwoman with lot’s of “Oh Shit!” Moments!