Raising the level of your leadership

Danger Zone

Lesson #4 from the Johnstown flood of 1889

One of the most famous of Aesop’s Fables is The Boy Who Cried Wolf. A young shepherd boy—bored with watching the sheep—falsely and repeatedly cried “Wolf! Wolf!” to alert the villagers that a wolf was attacking the flock. When the inevitable happened and a wolf actually did attack the flocks, the villagers ignored his warnings and the flock was destroyed.

The people of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, had lived in the danger zone below the South Fork dam for years. They knew the dam could fail, even believed it would some day, but:

“The townspeople…grew calloused to the possibility of danger…
`that dam will give way, but it won’t ever happen to us.’ ”
(From The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough)

When the inevitable actually did happen, the warning that arrived at the telegraph office was ignored:

“…it created no alarm in his mind. He had heard such warnings before.”
(From The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough)

The town was destroyed and more than 2000 people were swept away in just ten minutes when the wall of water—up to 60 feet high—hit Johnstown. Most of those people had time to get to higher ground if the warning had gone out and been heeded.

In every part of life, we ignore the Danger Zone warnings at our own peril.

Every business is unique, but one Danger Zone warning common to all is if your best and brightest employees are leaving. Ignore that warning at your own peril.

In churches, if long time supporters and friends are drifting away to other ministries, that is a Danger Zone warning. Ignore it at your own peril.

In life, if you are borrowing money to pay for normal living expenses, you are in the Danger Zone. Bankruptcy is just around the corner if you ignore the warning.

You cannot avoid living in the danger zone, but you can pay attention to the warning signs.

“…it won’t ever happen to us” is a perilous way to live.

4 responses to “Danger Zone”

  1. Tim Richards says:

    Kind of hits us close to home doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing the truth. even when it is difficult or inconvenient to hear.

    • Dick Wells says:

      Individuals, families and organizations all live in the danger zone all the time. The issue is whether we pay attention to the warning signs or not. Thanks for the comment, Tim. Lunch soon?

  2. Matt Austin says:

    Why is it so hard for organizations to face the brutal facts? Is it fear?

    • Dick Wells says:

      Organizations are made up of people. People have a hard time facing brutal facts. Sometines it is fear of personal loss or consequences. Sometimes blindness. Often it is pride–unwillingness to accept responsibility for mistakes, etc. It almost always takes someone from the outside to help organizations face facts and define reality. Remember, when we are deceived, we don’t know it (and too often, don’t want to know).

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