Liz on Leadership

The Day the Towers Collapsed:
Liz’s Leadership Reflections on 9/11

It is hard to believe it’s been 17 years since the traumatic events of 9/11. In some ways, it feels like a million years ago… in others, it seems like yesterday.

For many of us, the anniversary of 9/11 brings a moment of pause. We reflect, feel the loss, re-experience our outrage at the destruction of our sense of safety. We renew our resolve and determination: We will fight our common enemies, stand united as a community, a nation, a world. We will not be taken down by those who despise us. They will not destroy our way of life.

At the same time, we live in a busy, distracting world. We strive each day to be effective in our work and enjoy our lives, to thrive amid the frenetic pace of today's 24/7 reality. Even 9/11 can fade into the background as we rush through back-to-back meetings, pressing deadlines, and daily workplace “fires”. Our days are full and often overwhelming.
I remember, as a child, hearing my parents talk about where they were when JFK was shot. It was a defining moment for them and millions of others in the US and across the globe. It happened before I was born. I was aware and informed of what had happened but I was emotionally removed from the intensity of that event. 9/11 was another story. I was an adult, married, with my first child. I was personally engaged in the happenings of the world.

I remember that morning with vivid clarity. I was sitting on my living room couch, watching the morning news before heading into town with my two-year-old daughter. I was expecting a relaxing Autumn day, strolling the local streets and exploring the sights with my Anna. I can still see the cloudless blue sky. It was an exquisite September day.

A special news report stopped me in my tracks. Bryant Gumbel announced that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Unimaginably, there was a visible hole in the building and smoke billowing across the sky. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Shock, sadness, and speculation began to brew. The second plane hit. Then, in devastating encore, both Towers went down.

Where were you when that first plane struck? What were you doing, feeling, thinking, as the reports rolled out: the attack on the Pentagon, Flight 93 going down in Shanksville, PA , and the rumors and speculation of further horrors to come?

There are many learnings we can take from this unspeakable Pivot Point in our history. Here are five:

  1. No matter how much we plan and anticipate, life can change in a flash. Be ready.
  2. Communities, at their best, come together when the stakes are high. Does your leadership foster a community of support, caring and response?
  3. Leadership comes in many forms. Title is just one part of the equation—and not always the most important part.
  4. Preparation for unforeseen circumstances is essential. Never take the status quo for granted. Of course, you don’t want your people to continually be white-knuckled. But do you have the right contingencies in place? Anticipation and organization are the antidote to crisis and chaos.
  5. Your response to problems will exacerbate or mitigate the lasting effects. Quick, decisive, effective action is what it’s all about. When leaders take ownership and confidently lead their organizations through tough times, the entire organization rallies.

Taking time to reflect on the past doesn’t mean you’re stuck. Taking pains to prepare for the future doesn’t mean you’re afraid of what’s to come. By approaching your future with thought, strategy, structure and process, you prepare your organization for a bright tomorrow. You set the stage for growth, innovation, and steadfast confidence no matter what comes your way. This is what I call Slow Down to Speed Up™ Leadership. You can learn more about it by visiting my website, reading the book, or getting in touch directly.

S end me an email:  or call  215.805.5551

I’d love to hear from you.
"Dr. Liz Bywater is an outstanding organizational consultant and I strongly recommend her to any client seeking to improve individual and organizational performance."
– Alan Weiss, Ph.D., President, Summit Consulting Group

Slow Down to Speed Up: 
Lead, Succeed, and Thrive in a 24/7 World

Check out my book to discover a host of real-world examples, practical tools, and immediately actionable advice to help you and your organization thrive in today’s fast-paced world. 

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Liz Bywater, PhD