Copyright © Dr. Stephen H. Dawson, DSL 2021

June 10, 2021

The Arrival at Success

"You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility." Saint Augustine

You have found the person you need to serve in the role you need to be filled. They have agreed to serve in the role. You have solved your strategic planning problem by resolving your people problem. You have realized success. I congratulate you on your achievement.

We have covered much ground in this commentary series. It is the ground from day one, not only the assessing, matching, and interviewing work. Today, we need to review some of what you could have done as you made your decisions over the past several months. It is not my position to either criticize, condemn, or complain about your actions. It is my intent to further develop you as a leader by considering where you stand after your recent events of dealing with the people problems in your organization.

I shared several weeks back we still need to discuss physical impairments resulting in a disability when you consider selecting members for your organization. I held off on discussing this topic with you until after you made your hiring decision for a reason. I maintain the position the first requirement for any applicant is for them to hold the skills necessary to fill the role where they would like to serve. Let's talk now about the risk you incur by being blinded from reason. Think about all we have covered in our time together to help you with your strategic planning problem and how it developed you as a leader.


The concept of success means many different things to everyone. You had a specific objective. We walked out how to accomplish your objective. You made your decisions. You took action. You met the requirements you assigned to your objective. This combination is what I call a clear success.

If you are like most folks I have met, then you are experiencing some degree of fear now. You are wondering if you made the right staffing choice, the best staffing choice, the most reasonable staffing choice you could have made. We talked about being scared. You will never know these answers about your choices for certain. What you can know is you did the best you could with what you had to work with inside of you at the time. Now, that combination may not be enough to succeed in all objectives. However, for the objective we undertook, you have enough proof to demonstrate you are on the side of reason to prove your success in this effort.

What we cannot prove is if you were humble enough during your work to locate a replacement member of your organization. We discussed the power of humility several weeks back. What I can tell you is my heart knows when I have not been humble enough toward others. I know it by my being uncomfortable to be around them after I take action. How about you? Are you feeling good about how you acted recently around your people?



I discussed several weeks back how you need to leverage general counsel and human resources. Their work is outside of your expertise. You need their input, but you run the business. It is reasonable to feel as though you would like to have more and less of their input at the same time. This feeling results from the combination of your staffing choice having a significant impact on your organization, the new member, and the impact of using their skills to your maximum benefit.

How about unconscious bias? Did you make your staffing selection based on an affinity for a group of similarities? Are you feeling good about how you acted recently around your people?

I intend to use the following story to connect as much, if not all, of the material we have covered in this commentary series. I hope the story hits you square in your chest as it did for me when I first read it. I hold this hope for you as the chest is where we seem to measure how we know right from wrong.

Hingson and Flory tell the story of Michael Hingson. Hingson went to work on September 11, 2001, as he had for a long time. He worked on the seventy-eighth floor of the World Trade Center in New York City. A plane crashed into the building fifteen stories below him that day. His thoughts after the crash were to call his wife and inform her he was alive, then see to the safety of his coworkers as part of a building evacuation process. Hingson shared many people he worked with, along with people he did not work with on the same floor, were scared to the point they could not evacuate. Evacuation meant overcoming the obstacle of the horrific damage on the sixty-third floor. Hingson did what needed to be done at the moment. He started walking to the stairwell, asking those around him to follow him onto the stairs. The people, one by one, moved to follow him. They crawled over demolished concrete, beside raging fires, and around those who died during the plane crash. Hingson led several, then dozens, then hundreds of people out of the World Trade Center, gaining new followers floor by floor before the building collapsed less than five minutes after he exited the building.

Now, the context. Hingson is blind. He lost his eyesight years before this 2001 event. Hingson accomplished crisis communications, succession planning, agile project management, phased project management, and the preservation of life that day. Hingson did have his guide dog with him. Hingson is what I call a leader, a servant, a hero.

I urge you to contextualize your efforts to lead given Hingson and evaluate if your executive leadership abilities, your willingness to serve your followers, your commitment to do what I called right during our many discussions of morality matches what your organization needs to accomplish. What I do not know is what you call right. Your organization may need to accomplish in the next few minutes something it did not plan to accomplish. Our discussion of market sector stability, along with the acquisitions and mergers listed daily in the newspapers over the past several years, means your organization is most likely going to face something they need to accomplish outside of your planning. The need may not be a crisis, but it will probably be a substantial turn of events for you and those you lead. My intent is not to scare you. My intent is to focus you on the importance of not leading from an isolated perspective. Hingson had no perspective of eyesight, but he had the perspective to lead followers regardless of the nature of the circumstances by contextualizing the circumstances. This combination is called strategic vision.

The message of the Hingson story is simple. Do not let your leadership work be outside of your organization but an integral part of your organization. Otherwise, you probably would do well not to pursue either your project or serve as a leader. The more profound point here is your organization is not static in construct.

I first read the story of Michael Hingson in the newspaper on September 14, 2001, during breakfast. I was living in the Washington, D.C. area at the time. I was trying to make sense of what happened over the past few days. The part of the building where I used to work did not exist anymore. I reflected on the choices I had made over the past 72-hours. It was a difficult week for me.

The events I experienced 20 years ago are similar to the effort you are trying to achieve now: make more sense of how you solved your strategic planning problem by resolving your people problem. The context is different, but the needs and objectives are the same. You are trying to know if you did what you needed to do to the best of your ability at the time.

A close look at things when they happen is a sound approach to getting a good perspective on things. Then, stepping back and reviewing events later to see how things look after the dust settles. If it helps you understand things now, I still have the Michael Hingson story article I tore out of the newspaper after breakfast that morning.



This commentary series on the topic of strategic planning will conclude next week. I will share with you next week some guidance on the next steps you would do well to consider in your leadership development journey. I hold the position development is a journey, not a single destination known as destiny. Development is a series of destinations comprising the journey.

We will discuss next week the most controversial topic I handle in my work. It is the concept of truth. Truth scares people. Truth moves people. Truth is not discussed much in public circles today. If you desire to serve as a leader and realize anything close to the concept of success, then you cannot avoid truth. Truth is realized by reason. Reason is manifested in process. Needless to say, my work has me helping people who are struggling to gain a good grip on truth. This understanding of truth is the basis of our work going forward. Our basis has been prepared by the foundation we have established together.

Next Steps

So, I ask you: where do you want to go? I hope your answer is to develop the plans necessary to accomplish the strategy you know you need to achieve to arrive at your desired destination. If this is the case, then let's get to work. If not, then I wish you the best of everything.

I hope we will see each other here next week. Email me if you need to talk before then.

Dr. Stephen H. Dawson, DSL
Executive Strategy Consultant

Stephen Dawson is an executive consultant of technology and business strategy, serving significant international organizations by providing leadership consulting, strategic planning, and executive communications. He has more than thirty years of service and consulting experience in delivering successful international business development and program management outcomes in the US and SE Asia. His weekly column, "Where Do You Want To Go?," appears on Thursdays.

Dr. Dawson has served in the technology, banking, and hospitality industries. He is a noted strategic planning visionary. His pursuit of music has been matched with his efforts to lead by service to followers. He holds the clear understanding a leader without followers is a person taking a long walk alone.

Stephen has lived his life in the eastern United States, visiting most of the United States and several countries. He is a graduate of the Regent University School of Business & Leadership. Contact him at