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Lessons in leadership

How managers became heroes during the terrorist attacks

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Working Smart readers know about leadership. They’ve learned how to share a vision and motivate their troops to carry it out.

But on Sept. 11 some managers in the World Trade Center redefined leadership. Examples of their heroism:

John Connelly, director of administration, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood:

When Connelly’s 57th floor office was rocked by the first plane’s impact, he met up with co-workers in a central hallway. He told them to wait while he called the building’s security office to determine what to do. Unable to reach security, he led co-workers to the stairs, saying, “Don’t go back to your desks. Just go.”

Yet he did not join them. He gathered three colleagues and had them check the firm’s five floors to confirm everyone had evacuated. Then they headed down the stairs together.

At the 49th floor, they encountered a group of severely burned people clogging the smoky stairwell. So, along with two co-workers, Connelly hiked up seven floors to get first-aid supplies for the trapped burn victims.

Connelly escaped from the building a few minutes before it collapsed.

John Paul DeVito, chief operating officer, May Davis Group:

When the first plane hit just above his office on the 87th floor, DeVito tried to quell the flames. Moments later, he overcame his instinct and decided to guide his 12 employees down the stairs. He took a water jug to dampen the torn shirts that some employees were using as face masks. Then he led his group down to safety by creating a human chain.

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