The Time to Stand & the Right Time to Stand Down

Leadership in SARThe World is full of great leaders and the world of SAR is just the same. But does that mean that because the World also has bad leaders then the SAR world does too?


The answer to that question depends on whom you ask. For clarity, I am talking of the leader of a SAR organisation, be it called a Team Leader, Chairman or whatever. Being a good leader requires many qualities including passion, honesty, the ability to communicate effectively with your members and other teams and obviously much more that you can think of yourselves.

But one thing that can get forgotten is the ability to listen and “feel” the team you are leading. You must know your members; you must hear what they are saying even when they struggle to know how to say it; you need to keep your finger on the pulse; you need to show leadership and compassion and you must be inspirational. But perhaps the most important thing is knowing when it is time to stand down.

I think that the leader who starts up a new team clearly has drive and passion because it is not an easy thing to do. There are many hurdles to jump and even with the help of a mentor team and the backing of a national organisation, it is still a hell of a hill to climb. And it doesn’t happen overnight – it takes a while to get to the day when you are operational and able to fulfil the goal. During this time, many would-be leaders will give up. Maybe then it is a good thing that it takes the time it does. But once the team is up and running and it now a year or two down the operational line, is that leader the same right choice? Not always. Sometimes it takes a different style or personality to continue the good work. Not always, just sometimes. The good leader should be aware when it time to hand over and not take this as failing, because it so isn’t.

Another scenario could be when someone takes over as the Leader when another stands down. They may well have the passion to start with but then realise they have bitten off more than they can handle. Rather than do the right thing and stand down at the appropriate moment, they continue to push on with the hope that no one notices. But in reality all it does is slowly erode the morale of the team.

Then there are the dictators. Those who want to run the entire team themselves even when there is a committee to help them. They will make all the decisions despite advice from their peers; they will be secretive and only confer with a trusted couple of followers. But whom exactly are they leading? The team or the followers? Only openness and transparency within the entire team can prove they are good leaders because then the whole team can see what they do and respect the decisions, even if they do not fully agree with them.

There is more to say about what makes a good leader or a bad leader but I would like to hear what others have to say. No actual names or team-names please as this is not the purpose of this thread. Let’s make this a thread where we can share ideas and learn and perhaps inspire some potential leaders out there who will one day be in the hot-seat. Because it is not an easy job.

The very best Leaders will surely agree, it is good to listen.

- Matt Johnston -

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