I don’t think putting my hand up to rescue those boys was heroic. I was doing two things that I know well and I enjoy – cave diving and anaesthesia. Courage is doing something that frightens you. Neither of those things frightened me particularly. The decision to sedate the boys though – that frightened me. I’m proud that I found the courage to make that hard decision.

Sometimes courageous leadership means executing the best option out of a list of less-than-satisfactory options. Courageous leaders also build trust with their teams that they’ll step up in the face of challenges, make a plan in a timely manner and proceed with it.

Finding the right balance between teamwork and the courageous individuals with particular expertise who step up to bring this to the table can be powerful, especially when everyone is aligned to and laser-focused on the objectives. Misalignment creates distractions, diverts focus and causes conflict.

Deciding to do nothing can be more damaging than making a decision to act, even if you’re not fully convinced acting will drive the right outcome. Deciding to act is easier when you have a culture of trust. Transparency and frequent communication when making decisions can be a powerful engine for building trust.

Individuals with unique expertise are rising to and solving challenges, and leaders and teams should lean on these individuals.

“Be a generalist and an enthusiast – you never quite know where it’s going to lead.”

In this complex rescue, middle-aged nerds from all over the world with a strange passion for an obscure sport were able to execute a mission with complete success where the highest-trained military personnel were unable to.

What spoke to me about life from this experience is to be a generalist and an enthusiast – you never quite know where it’s going to lead.

Harry now works closely with Operation Flinders, which supports at-risk youth in building resilience to tackle challenges, and we have donated to support this work. If you can join us in supporting Operation Flinders, please donate here.

Catch up on more leadership insights and advice with these favourites from the How I Lead series:

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