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Do you sometimes feel like a survivor?

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers

In 1976, rebel forces kidnapped Bill Niehous, general manager of Owens-Illinois’ Venezuelan operations, and held him in the jungle for three years before he escaped.

Niehous attributes his survival to five aspects of leadership:

1. Faith in his network of family, friends, acquaintances and business associates. He knew they were working hard to rescue him.

2. Communication. Niehous had become fluent in Spanish, so he could speak to his captors and read.

3. Social conditioning through community, business, church and recreation groups made it easier for Niehous to feel his way through dealings with his kidnappers.

4. Empathy allowed Niehous to understand his kidnappers. Even though he didn’t like them, he felt he needed to know why they were rebelling against their government. Learning what motivated them helped Niehous maintain his self-esteem and keep going.

5. Optimism that he would be rescued propelled Niehous to set goals. First, his plans revolved around time. He was kidnapped in February and expected that his ransom and release would be settled by Easter. Later, he focused on events: birthdays, vacations and Christmas. As he survived each step, he set new goals.

Niehous eventually escaped, was rescued by some farmers and whisked home on a company plane. His advice to other leaders: Forget difficulty, move forward and stay positive.

— Adapted from Golf and the Game of Leadership, Donald McHugh, Amacom

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