McCullough has worked for AEP his entire career. He started as a manager trainee at the bottom and worked his way up to a leadership position overseeing 5,000 teammates and 8,000 contractors.
Kight asked McCollough to describe a formative experience. He described an explosion that occurred in a power plant. McCullough was a young trainee inclined to run for cover, but his senior leader said they needed to head to the control room.
McCullough said when they arrived, they found chaos. He said his mentor began to calmly direct the players: “check this meter”; “cut off this valve”; “monitor that temperature.” Slowly but surely the environment settled, and the team worked on the problem until it was settled.
Kight, the interviewer, shared his observation:
“I heard you say you learned a powerful leadership lesson that day. He taught you that a leader:
Run to the mess. Get in the mess. Stay in the mess.
Most of the leaders I admire model that behavior. It’s good advice for anyone who aspires to leadership.