Leadership Guide 101

Leader Consultant Tim Kight interviewed Mark McCullough, an executive leader in the huge utility company American Electric Power (AEP).

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:

Powerful Leadership Lessons

“I heard you say you learned a powerful leadership lesson that day.  He taught you that a leader:

  • runs to the mess, not away from the mess;
  • then, a leader climbs in the mess, doesn’t stay out of the mess;
  • and finally, a leader stays in the mess until it’s fixed.”

Run to the mess.  Get in the mess.  Stay in the mess.

  • Leaders address issues because problems don’t age well.
  • Leaders will get dirty.
  • Leaders endure when others would drop out.

Most of the leaders I admire model that behavior.  It’s good advice for anyone who aspires to leadership.