Lessons in leadership

In 1968, an impressionable Air Force sergeant waited at a short, hilltop airstrip in South Vietnam for a lift to the rear area. In early afternoon, an Army Buffalo–a small twin engine cargo plane–landed and unloaded a few things. The pilot got out through a top hatch, stood on the wing, looked around at the few troops waiting nearby, and said as if inviting us: “We’re going to Long Binh. Who’s coming?” Hands went up.

The Captain made a head count and started figuring in a small notebook. Talking out loud as he thought, he said, “We got 14 guys, about 200 lb each, so much fuel, this much cargo, 95 degrees, and this much runway.” Then he paused to check his figures and said with a smile as if sharing a joke, “Hey, we’ve got almost 100 yd of runway to spare. Load up.” After we got on, the plane looked full. But we took off…with 100 yd to spare.

There, in a nutshell, is a lesson in leadership. The plane was packed but the captain was confident, capable, positive, glad to be of service, and when least expected, he was entertaining. What more could you ask for in a leader?

You don’t have to be an expert to recognize good leaders. They make you want to be good followers and perform well, especially in tough times. Good leaders make you want to stick around. They set examples of what to do in sticky situations to prepare you to lead when they are gone. Any leader worth his salt wants to leave his position to a capable individual who will serve in his place.

Leadership is this issue’s theme. We devote several pages to recognizing the success of those in the wind industry, calling them innovators and influencers. Innovators drive the industry with inventions and technical developments. Influencers are industry advocates, champions that encourage law makers to support good policy such as the Production Tax Credit.

But leaders don’t know everything. They need guidance to set goals. They need to recognize when they make mistakes, or are about to. Good leaders need good followers behind them.

Steven Covey has a lot to say on the subject and he discusses it in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Recently, he added an eighth habit that points more toward leadership than effectiveness. The eight habit says, find your voice and help others find theirs. He encourages determining what you really believe in–what your heart tells you is worth working for–and focusing on accomplishments that will make you proud. Then, help others make their discoveries.

— Paul Dvorak


  1. Outstanding article, and so true! In the O&M sector, leadership can have a dramatic influence on the bottom line, or as others have stated, the triple bottom line. Our industry is growing up, and so must our people. The “Cowboy Days” will be a thing of the past. With this type of positive leadership that you write about Paul, we will indeed shape the teams we serve, the profitability of our industry, and the stewardship of resources entrusted to us.

  2. Very well stated – I just commented on leadership discussion on another site. I will refer them to your comments.

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