Remember Your Station
It happened at 10:15 A.M. on September 3, 1902.
An electric trolley was gaining speed and headed toward them. People began to wave their arms trying to gain the attention of the trolley driver, but to no avail. Others began screaming.
The trolley struck the rear left wheel. It was like thunder. Bystanders couldn’t believe what they saw next…bodies flying through the air. The trolley hit with such force that the group was literally tossed 40 feet. Bodies were lying all over the street.
Women were screaming and covering the eyes of their children. The trolley had slammed into the President’s horse-drawn carriage. Horses were dead, as well as one of the President’s men.
The first to be identified as dead was William “Big Bill” Craig. Big Bill was Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite secret service agent. After being tossed from the carriage, the trolley ran over him. Eyewitnesses could see blood and bone on the trolley tracks.
Now the bigger issue…where was the president? Was he dead? President Teddy Roosevelt had been tossed from the carriage. The crowd, which had come out to see the Presidential Carriage as it passed by, quickly ran to the President. Captain George Lung, the president’s personal physician, was part of the entourage that day. He began screaming and running toward the President as well.
“Sir!… Are you hurt…Mr. President, are you okay?”
Roosevelt righted himself up and signaled he was all right…and then it happened…Roosevelt saw that the trolley was stopped. The driver was still in his seat. The President, with hundreds watching him, stood up and ran to the trolley.
Roosevelt began screaming at the driver. His teeth were clenched. He was breathing heavily with his fists raised and in the driver’s face. The President began yelling accusatory questions.
“Why did you do this? Why were you gaining speed?”
In front of the crowd, the conductor, Euclid Madden quipped, “Well, I had the right of way.”
The police arrive and arrest Madden for manslaughter.
Roosevelt soon discovers that his favorite body guard is dead. The President is broken hearted. Astonishingly, the President resumes his travel schedule for the day.
What’s the leadership lesson? Roosevelt forgot his position.
People were watching. The streets were filled with onlookers. Yet, there stands the President of the United States with his fists drawn…screaming accusations, while nose to nose with the trolley driver.
It’s in moments like this one that leaders must have enough self-awareness that they represent their people, their position, their organization, and their mission.
It was a highly charged situation, but Roosevelt allowed his emotions to get the best of him. Leaders must realize that in all situations–even those highly charged ones–that they must be the bastions of calm and stability.
Step back and understand that all eyes are on you. Those watching are taking their cues from you. As a leader, your team is watching. If you lose your temper and have a meltdown, what does that say to them about you? You could be giving them permission to do the same.
Remember your station. Be the leader your team needs you to be.
Source: Accidental Presidents – Jared Cohen
Brian Sanders serves as Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio. He regularly writes and speaks on leadership topics. His new book, “Leadership Endurance,” can be purchased HERE.