‘Do we have a doctor on this flight?’

Heads turned and necks craned as everyone on Flight 481 wondered the same thing: Who’s unlucky enough to need a doctor way up here and are they just lucky enough that there’s one on board?

Apparently they were not in luck after all, as the next announcements were: ‘Do we have anyone with medical training?’ and finally ‘Do we have anyone with any kind of medical background at all?’

The guy in seat 33D stopped a passing attendant and sheepishly explained that he was just a first year intern from a small hospital and had only limited medical experience. ‘Looks like you’re it’ she said.

33D was ushered to the back of the plane, where he stayed for the rest of the flight, during which time he had assumed full command of the situation, the patient, the attendants and several passengers. He’d given everyone a job to do and they were doing their level best to keep the patient safe, stable, comfortable and calm.

When Flight 481 finally nosed into its arrival gate, we were all asked to stay seated so the waiting paramedics could get to the patient without delay, which of course, they did.

That’s when 33D disappeared into the crowd, just another passenger.

But for those few hours on the night flight from Melbourne to Perth, 33D answered the call of leadership, the five big questions that anyone of us might face, at any time:

  1. Do I know what needs to happen, right now?
  2. Do I have what it takes, somewhere within me?
  3. Am I prepared to step up and do whatever is needed, right now?
  4. Can I engage and empower people to work together towards a common goal?
  5. Am I able to step back when it’s time for others to take over?

For 33D, right there, right then, at 30,000 ft, the answer for all five questions was YES, which made him the leader we were all looking for.

See, leadership is not a qualification. It’s a challenge, the sort of thing that happens whether you’re ready or not. So what if, one day you find yourself facing the same questions… and coming up with the same answers?

That’s when someone will probably say ‘Looks like you’re it’.

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Written by Jason Clarke

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Celebrated author, adventurer, gold medal Olympian and popular TV chef; Jason is none of these things. He is, however, one of the most sought-after creative minds in the country. As founder of Minds at Work, he’s helped people ‘think again’ since the end of the last century, working with clients across Australia in virtually every industry and government sector on issues ranging from creativity and trouble shooting to culture change and leadership.