The job of a combat helicopter pilot isn’t just stressful – it’s life-or-death. And the leaders of these highly trained forces don’t take the stress lightly, but instead double down on their commitment and drive those around them to extraordinary performance. The toughest test for any leader is to stay focused under intense pressure, and yet remain humble. They’re able to lead with great clarity and precision, inspiring teams in the heat of battle. It takes poise, courage, and strength of character to do what they do – each day flying into danger with a team by their side.
Brian L. Slade has held command positions in the Army and the Air Force and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and fourteen combat air medals. He attended Utah State, where he earned a BA and was commissioned as an Army Aviation second lieutenant. He’s also earned an MA in aviation instruction. Brian currently serves as a lieutenant colonel for Air Force Combat Search and Rescue.
During this interview Brian and I discuss the following topics:
- 00:15:34 Deploying together, no combat experience, uncertainty.
- 00:17:10 Door and mountains, unexpected beauty in Afghanistan.
- 00:22:31 Unfamiliar with Taliban, volunteered for military mission.
- 00:26:29 Men committed to convictions, respecting enemy’s conviction.
- 00:29:32 Young guys in fights provide unexpected wisdom.
- 00:31:18 Creating psychological safety enables soldiers to speak up and share their thoughts, breaking hierarchical barriers.
- 00:37:29 Lead by example, engage, inspire, and persevere.
- 00:38:58 Commitment, courage, and teamwork: achieving alignment.
- 00:42:53 Hold yourself accountable, lead by example.
- 00:47:23 Officer’s fear of flying led to surprising skills.
- 00:51:02 Help friend. Share. Subscribe for leadership lessons.
- 00:51:43 Appreciative farewell, take care and thank you.
If you are interested in learning more about Brian’s resources be sure to check out the following links:
- Get Your Copy of Cleared Hot TODAY
- Brian Slade on LinkedIn
- Brian Slade on FaceBook
- Brian Slade Instagram
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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode.
Scott McCarthy [00:00:01]:
Today in episode 248 of the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast, you’re cleared hot to learn leadership lessons from Apache gunship pilot. That’s right, folks. It’s leadership from the air today. Are you ready for this? Alright. Let’s do it. Welcome 1. Welcome all to the Peak Performance Leadership podcast, a weekly podcast series dedicated to helping you hit peak performance across The 3 domains of leadership. Those being leading yourself, leading your team, and leading your organization.
Scott McCarthy [00:00:44]:
This podcast couples my 20 years of military experience as a senior Canadian army officer with world class guests bringing you the most complete podcast on leadership going. And for more, feel free to check out our website at moving forward leadership.com. With that, let’s get to the show. Yes. Welcome, 1. Welcome, all. It is your chief leadership officer, Scott McCarthy, and so good to have you here today. As I air this episode 248.
Scott McCarthy [00:01:24]:
Wow. Never thought I’d get there. We’re almost at 250. Crazy. Anyway, here we are, and, yeah, we are interviewing Lieutenant, Brian Slade, and you’ll hear later why I emphasized the Lou and lieutenant colonel Brian Slade in a little bit. Anyway, we’re talking all of our leadership lessons from his time as an Apache gunship pilot. But more importantly, I guess, to point out is the fact that he was a commander of a company of Apache gunships in Afghanistan during the early days of the war over there. So a lot
Brain Slade [00:02:15]:
Let me tell you, a
Scott McCarthy [00:02:17]:
lot of leadership lessons coming out of him in this episode. So it’s interesting because for me, I was there where he was. So He and I were talking about his book, cleared hot. You can check it out. It’s in the show notes. And, again, show notes link for this episode is easy. Just go to lead.comforward/248. And they’re near, the guest resources section.
Scott McCarthy [00:02:49]:
You’ll find a Link to grab a copy of his book, Cleared Hot. And by the way, I brought it. It’s excellent. Can’t recommend it enough. So much of lessons in there. And it it’s not just about leadership, but it’s also a lot about resilience and mental toughness. Right? Things that we as leaders definitely need to have. So it was interesting for me because He one part in the book talks about how he start operating out of Kandahar, which is where I was when I was in Afghanistan.
Scott McCarthy [00:03:21]:
So I can picture as stories come to life. So I know that’s not for all of you, but for Some of you, this may be applicable. Anyway, Brian, still active service in the US Air Force, So you get a 2 for 1 deal in this episode. You get 2 active duty, to lieutenant, lieutenant colonels in this episode. And we talk about all kinds of different things such as how he managed to keep the mindset of staying in within his top performance, how we got prepared to get ready to go into a combat zone, and how we got this team prepared. We talked about the time they took over another, a different established team, and how he got it back on track and up to their peak performance. We talk about why leaders need to commit with courage. And then finally, amongst other topics, we also talk about how to combat the great resignation that’s still going on.
Scott McCarthy [00:04:31]:
Though we hit a whole plethora of different topics here, but it’s definitely stuff that is applicable to today. Brian’s a rock star guest. Like I said, he’s still active duty, although he’s preparing his transition to what we refer to as normal life, getting ready to become a civilian again. He’s got a bronze star, distinguished flying cross. He Has a BA and as well, he is a, has a MA in aviation instruction. So he’s still serving as I mentioned. He’s actually now serving with the Air Force’s Combat Search and Rescue, also known as CSAR. That’s what we call
Brain Slade [00:05:13]:
it up here, which is highly,
Scott McCarthy [00:05:18]:
difficult, high danger, and as well as, you know, very stressful. So Brian is someone who thrives under a pressure. Prime. And us as leaders, that’s where we live. So with further ado, why don’t you sit back, relax and enjoy my conversation with lieutenant colonel Brian Brian, my man. Welcome to the show.
Brain Slade [00:05:56]:
Thanks, Scott. I’m happy to be here.
Scott McCarthy [00:05:58]:
This is crazy. We got 2 active serving lieutenant colonels, to Afghan veterans on the show here today. I am stoked.
Brain Slade [00:06:10]:
Yeah. Except for I’m not a lieutenant. I don’t know what that means.
Scott McCarthy [00:06:13]:
Oh, right. Right. You’re a lieutenant.
Brain Slade [00:06:18]:
No. I got you. Yeah. I do lieutenant curls. Yeah. Checking it up. I didn’t realize you were still active
Scott McCarthy [00:06:24]:
duty. Yep. Yep. Yeah. Legit. I’m still, like, busting my butt, you know, 10 10, 12 hours a day, and then I come home and do this at
Brain Slade [00:06:31]:
night. Yeah. It just means we gotta be careful.
Scott McCarthy [00:06:36]:
Nah. No one in my candy crank cares what I
Brain Slade [00:06:39]:
say. I’m probably in that boat too.
Scott McCarthy [00:06:43]:
Alright. 1st question, I love asking military folks like this. 1, what drew you into the forces? And 2, why the officer route of it?
Brain Slade [00:06:56]:
Well, I got a mixed answer for that. What drew me into the forces was very you know, it was it was a combination of things. I I was patriotic for 1, but I also had no way to pay for school. So, You know, 2 birds, 1 stone. And and I also was somebody who was always drawn to, like, you know, adrenaline antics, if you will. And here I saw an opportunity where I could I guess, 3 birds, 1 stone. You know? Do something where I could fill that need, pay for school, and, you know, defend the country. So all of those things really just appealed to me, but I didn’t start as an officer.
Brain Slade [00:07:30]:
I actually did 7 years as an enlisted guy, and, and, then I did what’s called the simultaneous membership program where I was able to Get the benefits from being a listed guy for school and the benefits of being an officer for school, and and really worked out well for me to to see that dichotomy as well as far as, like, be able to lead as an officer, but understand where the enlisted guy comes from because I’ve been there. You know?
Scott McCarthy [00:07:55]:
Yeah. For sure. So we have a similar program tier 2 where the list of guys can can flip over. There’s a couple different streams, but, the one that, most go through is where the, you know, same thing to get sponsored for school, and, and and great for them. They’re gonna keep their their pay as unlisted, which is much better than if you’re going through what we call ROTP program or ROTC down south. Right? So those guys are getting big buck big bucks compared to us, going through school. So it’s pretty good gig, but, you know, you hit the nail on the head, though. They they understand, you know, the when you have that experience, they have the understanding of what it’s like on the front lines per se, you know, turning wrenches, doing this, doing that, doing doing the work, because they were there.
Scott McCarthy [00:08:38]:
They did it. Alright? Yeah.
Brain Slade [00:08:40]:
So For me, it was literally turning her into. I was a mechanic.
Scott McCarthy [00:08:43]:
Yeah. Yeah. I remember that now. I remember that now. So you went from mechanic to, you know, you just made a little minor change in career path from mechanic to, you know, flight Apache gunships. Nope.
Brain Slade [00:08:55]:
Nope. Basically, it’s a natural path. It’s basically the same thing.
Scott McCarthy [00:08:59]:
Brain Slade [00:09:01]:
Scott McCarthy [00:09:03]:
So pretty badass. Oh, go ahead.
Brain Slade [00:09:05]:
While I was in while I was at college, doing the art I knew I wanted to fly helicopters, but then I did What what I did is I did this incentive right thing. They had, like, you know, a Blackhawk show up and say, hey. You guys wanna check this out? And We went in there, and, of course, they tried to make us puke by doing all the things that you didn’t know a helicopter could do. And and I was like, yes. This is it. This is what I’m gonna do. And I didn’t realize how like, you just said it, how badass the apache was until I ended up in the apache, because That was just a foregone conclusion. I was in a unit already that had apache, so that’s where I was gonna go.
Brain Slade [00:09:43]:
And I didn’t realize, you know, I mean, like, it is the It is the creep. You know? It is it is the machine. So
Scott McCarthy [00:09:51]:
So let let let’s talk a bit about going through and experiences there then. You know, you go through the whole ROTC program, and I’m sure, you know, smooth sailing, getting through the Apache training? No no hiccups?
Brain Slade [00:10:05]:
Well, I mean, first, you gotta get branched into aviation, which is fairly when I was doing it, it was really competitive because there were so many dudes that wanted to do it That they were like, yeah, you gotta you gotta mold that doesn’t look right. You’re out. You know, like, there was just, like, every little thing, they were just trying to, like, weed it through. So There was a little bit of nervousness there that I was going to get weeded out for some nuance. Right? But luckily, I made it through all that. In fact, At one point, they did. They found, like, 2 little granulomas in my lung, which are fairly common to people that travel. Benign in nature, of course, but they They were gonna they were gonna eliminate me for that, and, you know, I pushed it to get a waiver because I was like, man, come on.
Brain Slade [00:10:42]:
I’m almost there, you know. And, then I got to flight school, and you and you know, when you’re in flight school, up until that point in my military career, it wasn’t hard for me to be at the top. Like, I just I just had to push, and I was there. I was at the top. When I got to flight school, I realized that that was just a bunch of dudes that were in the same boat as me. They never had to work hard to be at the top. So they were they were there was all of us like that. Now all of a sudden, I’m like, well, crap.
Brain Slade [00:11:08]:
I gotta work hard to be at the top because these guys are freaking good. You know, they were all smart, and, You know, I never was really smart, but, luckily, the army gives a lot of weight to physical prowess. And at the time, I I was pretty physically fit, and And I and that that waited out the the smartness, I guess. But, these guys were smart and fit, so I was like, oh, crap. Something will climb. But, pushed through that, and then, like, then I went to Apache training. And, man, when I flew that thing, I got in it, and I was just like, this is my beast. This is my jam.
Brain Slade [00:11:39]:
It’s, you know, I I described it to my parents like, it’s like a semi, because I drove semi at one point. It’s like a semi that operates like a Ferrari as far as nimbleness, and it can go in 3 direct 3, you know, 3 d directions. And I was like, it’s just so awesome. And if called upon, I can level a
Scott McCarthy [00:11:56]:
city. So Yeah. That that’s it’s so cool. Now you talked about that competitiveness, you know, and, obviously, even getting to to the flight training, and then, obviously, the Apaches being the crooner crop. You know, how did you keep the mindset that you’re going to, you know, you’re going to get through it. How how did you manage to keep that mindset, keep operating at that high level to, I I assume you’re you’re competing only so many guys. There’s only so many birds. Right? So only so many so many guys are gonna get that hell of a helo.
Scott McCarthy [00:12:29]:
So How did you keep that mindset of keeping on top of your game throughout the whole flight training and and into, you know, and eventually into your your first first cockpit for real?
Brain Slade [00:12:41]:
I mean, honestly, it’s just like anything. You know, I I I played a lot of sports, and I was a decent athlete naturally, But I was super competitive, so I and I hated sucking. So it’s just, you know, keep pushing and keep pushing. And if you push harder than those around you, eventually, you’ll end up, you know, you’ll end up being competitive whether or not it’s natural ability or not. And I that’s really how I I feel like I was gifted I wasn’t gifted with natural ability in a lot of areas, but I was blessed with that determination. Right? So, that’s pretty much what kept me. It wasn’t hard to keep focused. I was like, this is what I wanna do, and there’s a lot of competition here, and that actually drove me.
Brain Slade [00:13:25]:
Oh, like, I gotta stay focused because there is a lot of competition. Guys that are just some of them are naturally gifted. Some of them are like me. You know? They weren’t, but they were very driven. You know? So So, you just kinda I I thrived off of that. I fed off of that. You know? Like, oh, jeez. You know? You can’t you can’t let your guard down because If you do if you do some there’s somebody that’s more than competent that’ll take your place.
Scott McCarthy [00:13:50]:
Yeah. So what I’m hearing from you there is instead of, you know, looking at the competition as a negative thing, like, oh, I gotta compete against these guys day in, day out. You took that as a positive thing, like, and use that as your motive here. Like, oh, yeah. You know, I’m gonna use these guys. These guys are the top. I’m gonna use them to motivate me and push me. You know, the iron strength sharpens iron type mentality, vice having the Having it as a as a negative mentality and mindset, which I think is amazing because so many people out there would just be in that situation, like, all these they’re just too good.
Scott McCarthy [00:14:20]:
I I’m done. I’m tapping it. Face using
Brain Slade [00:14:22]:
Scott McCarthy [00:14:23]:
a positive way.
Brain Slade [00:14:24]:
I honestly think that a true competitor craves competition. Right? Like, you you’re not you’re not super happy when you see it, but you also crave it. You’re like, oh, man. This alright. Here we go. You know? So I would say that I’m not I I used to be, like, one of those guys that was just ridiculous with Competition. I everything was a competition. Hey.
Brain Slade [00:14:47]:
Let’s go to the store. You won a race. Hey. You wanted to who could do you know? I’m not like that anymore. I realized that a board game is just a board game.
Scott McCarthy [00:14:56]:
After we finish the show, you’re gonna tell me how you’ve realized that because I am I’m still pretty competitive even when I’m playing trouble with my 2 boys.
Brain Slade [00:15:06]:
Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Alright.
Scott McCarthy [00:15:08]:
Let’s fast forward here. Let’s fast forward here. So you deploy to can or Afghanistan. You end up in Kandahar where I was at one point. Well, let’s go let’s go back. Let’s let’s go to the beginning. You know, what what were you feeling? How did you prepare yourself for for that mission? I mean, that mentally with your team as as a as a officer, as a leader going into your 1st real mission. You know, how did you get ready to roll?
Brain Slade [00:15:34]:
You know, for me, it was it was super it It was a surreal type of experience because our unit as a whole, all the experienced guys, they hadn’t deployed either. So we didn’t really have a lot of guys to be like, hey. What’s it like down there? What’s this you know, what’s it what what can we expect? It was it was we had guys that were experienced in the aircraft, but But they hate well, they weren’t experienced. They weren’t any more experienced at combat than I was. Right? Now I was a platoon leader going down there, and, I actually ended up being our unit movement officer And our Advan party, which is basically 3 of us that got downrange before the rest of the unit. So we were the 1st boots on ground for our unit. And, you know, I didn’t know what to expect. I was sitting in the back of a c seventeen just, you know, bouncing up and down with my sergeants, and, you know, all 3 of us are just like, Yeah.
Brain Slade [00:16:23]:
Here we go. What what what is this gonna look like? And interestingly enough, it it it my first impressions were very contrary to what I would have thought it was gonna be. So we landed in the morning, early morning of, in Bagram Is where we we landed initially, and I don’t know what I was expecting, but I just thought maybe it would, like, stink or be nasty, because it’s like war, You know, like, it’s gonna be ugly, whatever. And when that thing that back of that c 17 started open, and then we were in the dark, you know, it’s kinda like blinding with your eyes. And the 1st wave of, like, fresh air from outside hit me, and it didn’t stink. Now granted, if I landed in Kandahar, that’d been a different story. But we landed in Bagram. It actually smelled kinda fresh, and I was like, what? That’s weird.
Brain Slade [00:17:10]:
And then it continued down, the door continued down, and I saw the mountains. And I just came from you know, I’m from the Rocky Mountains in Idaho and Utah, and I was like, what is going on here? That’s actually beautiful. And, so it just wasn’t what I expected, but in more ways than one, because when we deployed Afghanistan, it was during a time when Iraq was all the news. Right? Iraq was all over the news, and you didn’t hear anything about Afghanistan, so we thought it was b team stuff. Right? There’s just not a lot going on in Afghanistan, and we’re gonna Go fly circles in the sky, and it’s gonna be kinda boring. Couldn’t have been more wrong, obviously. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been a book. But Really, what stood out to me, and this is what I use to teach perspective with guys is, like, when we started 1st started flying and we hadn’t engaged with the enemy yet, I’d fly over those mountains and those mountains were beautiful.
Brain Slade [00:18:00]:
And then we would get a call. And we would get a call and they would pull they would be a troops in contact is what they call it, a tick. And, we drop out of that beautiful, you know, that serene view that we’re looking at, and all of a sudden, we are fully engaged in a gunfight. Fully engaged with talking to a ground force commander who’s breathing heavy, and you hear gunfire in the background, and you can tell it’s just chaos on the ground, and they just don’t wanna get hit with Fast moving lead. Right? And then we’re bringing the heat with much bigger fast moving lead. Right? And that’s the that’s the intent. So everybody is focused now on this gunfight. And, you know, I thought there was a really cool lesson in that, in that the problem that we see all over, you know, In Canada and the US, is people choosing a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Brain Slade [00:18:52]:
And, you know, what I’m talking about is suicide. Right? So So there’s an analogy there when you’re talking about being in that gunfight. When you’re in the middle of that gunfight, you feel like that’s your life. Like, that’s everything. That’s all your focus is on that moment, and it is intense. But that gunfight will end. Right? That gunfight is finite. But the cool thing, even in the ugly places, ugly as Afghanistan as far as what’s going on in Afghanistan, even in that place, Those mountains are still beautiful.
Brain Slade [00:19:22]:
That snow on those mountains is still serene. And as you lift up even higher in the altitude, you can See the curvature of the Earth, and that’s freaking just amazing. And I don’t care if you’re over the ugliest place on the planet. This is what I always say. I tell this story over and over again, so Some people have maybe heard it again. Heard it if they’ve if they listen to several podcasts, but I don’t care if you’re over the ugliest place on the planet. If you’re up at 30,000 feet and you see the curvature of the earth, that is awesome. Right? And if you go up into space, which I haven’t been, and I probably never will because that don’t sound fun to me, but if you look at the globe, How amazing is that? And here’s the really cool part about that.
Brain Slade [00:19:58]:
There is no direction in space, so the beauty doesn’t go in every direction. It just is. It just exists. That’s the infinite. That’s the infinite perspective, not the gunfight that Seems infinite and overwhelming when people are in it, both analogously and literally as we’re talking about. When they’re in that, that seems like their world, but that’s a finite. You might come through with some scars. You might get beat up a little bit, but Or but it’s finite.
Brain Slade [00:20:27]:
It will end. It will end. But the infinite is up there.
Scott McCarthy [00:20:32]:
Love that brother, man. What I’m hearing from you is, you know, you know, look to, you know, the desired end state as former Navy SEAL Larry Yatch, that our former guest on the show would say. Right? You know, look look for you know, look to where you need to get to, where you want to be. And it’s and it’s it’s not necessarily there in that moment, that chaos, but, you know, focus, get through it, and and you’ll get to it, and it’ll be okay in the end. Like, I talked to so many people, you know, in 2020, 2021, 2022. The pandemic was wearing on, and so many people were just, I’m so tired of this. Like, we’ll get there. Like, This is not the 1st time we’ve gone through a pandemic.
Scott McCarthy [00:21:11]:
It’s our 1st time, but not us as a species. It’s not our 1st time. We’ll get there, because guess what? We’re still here. You know? Spanish flu 1918. It happened. It was the same type of thing. And guess what? Oh, we’re still here. So I love that perspective thing that you that you talked about for sure.
Scott McCarthy [00:21:27]:
And and and, you know, the chaos that goes on, I I’ve been there. Like, literally, I’ve been there. Right? I was in Kandahar. I was like, You know, it it’s interesting. I I don’t know if I talk about this often. And you it’d be interesting to hear if you had a very similar thing because you kinda hinted that. But, like, when you get there, you’re just like, before you’ve gotten shot at. You’re just like, when is someone gonna shoot at me? Like like, you want you kinda wanna get that experience and get it done and over with so that you you know what it’s like.
Scott McCarthy [00:21:55]:
Was that something similar for you too?
Brain Slade [00:21:58]:
Oh, yeah. It really was. And, you know, that sound that may sound weird to people. But For us, when we got into Bagram, there were we had to split our our company up into 2 2 places. We put a detachment out of Jalalabad, And then there was the rest of us at Bagram initially. And the guys that were out of Jalalabad were the guys that were getting called in to do all these tick support. Right? Where the guys at Bagram primarily were flying escort and ring routes where we didn’t really get into it with the enemy that as much. And at this point, it’s been a month in or so.
Brain Slade [00:22:31]:
I hadn’t hence, even to my knowledge, I hadn’t even seen the Taliban. You know? So I I was, like, well, you know, and but I was starting to hear stories from the guys at Jalalabad of engaging the enemy, and all those kind of things, and I’m, like, I wanna do my part, you know. And then they finally they did I my there were there were some there were some leadership challenges out there in Jalalabad, and my commander said, I’m gonna send you out there. I need you to kinda figure out what’s what and put it back together the way it needs to be put together, so he made me the detachment commander, and I went out to Jalalabad. Well, I was in Jalalabad, and then now once again, now now that now that, whatever you wanna call it, anxiousness was even amplified, because I now I know potential’s increased to go and and and trade lead with the enemy. And, you know, even guys were still coming back, and they’re they’re, like, they had an engagement, and I gotta talk him right after they had it and that kind of thing. And I go out, and we get called into a tick, and then the guys would nothing would happen. Like, they wouldn’t shoot at us or anything.
Brain Slade [00:23:32]:
Disappear. They say, hey. We’re not gonna play today. And I was it was frustrating. I called the tactical blue balls. You know? I’m just like, man, I’m ready to go, and I I can’t I can’t get this done. And then, finally, I I had my 1st my 1st engagement, and it was a doozy. I mean, we rolled in, and it was a daytime mission, and we were flying In this really, really steep slot canyon, and on one side of the slot canyon was a convoy that was they’d had an IED go off, so they were in that, basically, in a bad way.
Brain Slade [00:24:00]:
They couldn’t press down the road. They were taking fire, but they couldn’t tell from where. We had we we thought it was on the opposite side of the the canyon, so we’re flying over there trying to figure it out. And I had never really seen muzzle flash before in the daytime, so I I I would I later realized I had I was seeing it, but I didn’t, At this point, I didn’t realize that. So as we were flying around, we had just come we were actually getting pretty aggressive and pretty low. We’re about 20, I don’t know, 20, 30 feet over the over the ground, and then we came out over the over the valley. So it went from, like, 20, 30 feet to about 300 feet. And right as that happened, we got rocked with an RPG.
Brain Slade [00:24:39]:
I mean, lifted that bird up, Atore. It, like Like, I got punched and forgive it. Punched right in the butthole. Right? Like, boom. Like, picking us up, and and we and it created this. I thought we were hit. I thought we were hit by the RPG, but what had happened is the RPG either air burst below us or slammed into the cliff next to us, And it created this disturbed air that we couldn’t bite with our helicopter blades, and so we were falling. And so I thought that’s why I’m like, we’re hit, man.
Brain Slade [00:25:08]:
1st fight were hit. I’m done. This sucks. I didn’t even get a chance to throw a punch. Right? And I could see I remember Visually just seeing the rock that we were gonna hit at the bottom of that ravine. I’m like, that’s where we’re gonna I mean, that’s our trajectory right there. But Doug Earl, the guy who was flying the back CW 4 champion of champions, flies that thing out of there, and then there’s this really good lesson That’s taught to a young lieutenant at the time who just I probably would’ve stopped flying the helicopter because I thought we were hit. I there was nothing left to do, but he continued to fly the helicopter, which is a which is a lesson for life too.
Brain Slade [00:25:48]:
You know, how often Are we in the middle of stuff and we feel like it’s a foregone conclusion? This is this is where it’s at. This is where it’s headed. It’s done. When if we just continue to fly the helicopter, just like you were saying with COVID, now it’s in now it’s in the rear view mirror. You know? And he flew us out of that thing. We came back around, and I started to realize what I was seeing was was muzzle flashing. We started to engage the enemy with Extreme prejudice, and and it was it was surreal in a way that I pulled the trigger on the Apache many times at target practice. But when that was 1st time, and that was my 1st time that I knew when I squeezed that trigger that I was taking life.
Brain Slade [00:26:29]:
You know? There were men on the other end of that that were as Convicted in their causes, I was mine. In fact, they were very committed to try to make me lose my life for their commitment, and so was I. And so that that exchange and that well, I call I I would call it, I respect that enemy for that for that reason, Not their cause, but for their conviction, for their ability to go toe to toe with a machine that could kick their ass and did. Right? And then we roll back around, and we keep fighting, and we did the same aim thing right in the same freaking spot. And, you know, the the definition of insanity is do the same thing twice and expect a different result, but we got the exact same result. Luckily, exact same result because he didn’t hit us again, but this time, chunks of rock from the cliff hit the canopy. That’s how close it was to everything, and we went sideways this time. But now I had, like, 10 minute old wisdom though, so I looked at the I looked at the instruments.
Brain Slade [00:27:29]:
I’m like, oh, we’re still good. We’re gonna catch air. We’re gonna fly out of this thing, which we did. Annihilate. The guys got their truck fixed and they got down the road. So my first engagement was pretty intense. Lot of lessons to be learned from it, but it was a success ultimately.
Scott McCarthy [00:27:46]:
Yeah. No. Definitely a lot of lessons. And, you know, you hit on them, right, when trusting your team team members. Right? Your your your pilot at the
Brain Slade [00:27:56]:
time. Yeah. I mean, Doug Doug saved my my bacon And taught me so much. It just with that just one moment, he taught me so much.
Scott McCarthy [00:28:05]:
Absolutely. So much in there. What I’d like to do, though, Brian, is go back to Lieutenant Sledd. So lieutenant Sledd gets hauled in and says, hey. You’re off to Jalalabad, and you’re gonna take over this team. You’re under you’re we’re parachuting you in. Something’s not right, and we need you to take over this team. You know, how do you, as a leader, then go in to this team that you didn’t train with.
Scott McCarthy [00:28:30]:
You know, you knew them because they’re part of your unit. And so for the audience who aren’t familiar with military lingo and speak, Think of, like, you’re in marketing and you’re told just to go over to sales and take over a sales team. Right? That kinda that kind of that kinda situation. So you get told to take over the team and and and now be its leader and run it. So how did you, you know, 1, insert yourself into that team, and 2, Make it gel and perform at that peak performance that, obviously, you guys needed at that time.
Brain Slade [00:29:03]:
Well, I mean, I did know the guys, and and we had trained, but together, but we were we’d been separated for about 2 months at this point. And their experience at war In my experience at war, at that point, were completely different. Right? So I was the guy coming in that’s, like, you don’t know what’s going on, man. We’ve been here doing this. Right? And and they were right, and they’re correct. So that was the first thing is I had to acknowledge that they had they had institutional knowledge, and I did not. I had to acknowledge that and say, teach me. Right? Teach me what you have.
Brain Slade [00:29:32]:
What let me know what’s going on here. And hit what I realized pretty quick, you know, open your ears and shut your mouth. But but what I realized is the guys that that we look to for wisdom, and all the the guys that that were the best pilots because they’ve been around for Decades doing it, they weren’t the guys getting in the fights. It was the young guys that were getting in the fights. And so now you have this interesting out of sequence wisdom attainment, you know, which adds it to another complexity to team building, because It’s easy to say the guys that have been flying long enough, they’re the guys that are gonna have all the answers. That’s the natural order of things. But when you got a guy, the guys that are younger, Actually, having answers that the older guys don’t have because they haven’t had that experience, now you get egos in the way. Right? And so what I really had to go in there and do is listen first, figure that out, and then encourage others To listen as well through medians where we, you know, we set the stage by having whiteboards where everybody could talk and round tables and those kind of things.
Brain Slade [00:30:36]:
And, you know, just taking charge and saying, hey, guys. Everybody’s everybody’s input here is equal because because of the consequences. Right? When the consequence is death, every time you go out, if you do the thing the wrong way, I think we’re gonna listen to people that that that went out there and did it and and came back. You know, whether they did it right or wrong, there’s a lesson there. And And what we finally started getting was guys, you know, injecting wisdom from all different angles, and and it did start to become more cohesive. And we did start to really, really start to wreak havoc against the Taliban and and lay and lay some lay some blankets.
Scott McCarthy [00:31:18]:
You know, what I hear from you is, like, you instill what, we refer to as a as a sense of psychological safety. Right? You you enabled the guys to speak up and speak their minds. And in the military context, it’s so easy for us to be able to not do that with our rank structure and a hierarchical structure. You know, you being the lieutenant and and then everyone else being whether they’re chi warrant officers or NCOs or whatever, you know, and you being placed in charge as a commander of that group, it immediately puts in that hierarchy, but instead you did, which a lot of people have a hard time with. You did the inverse. You say no. Everyone’s input matters here because just like you said, lives are on the line. And I remember I was coaching or I was presenting to a group of business students once.
Scott McCarthy [00:32:07]:
And I I I kinda went that route. And I said, you know, with the military, we’re you know, End of the day, it’s all about saving lives. But look at it from a business context, business standpoint. And I’ll make a long story Short here, but I said, it’s the exact same thing. Because at the end of the day, if you’re a poor leader and peep your your your organization, your business fails, The people don’t have jobs. They don’t have money. They don’t earn money to put bread on their on their tables and provide for their families and keep a roof over their head. You know, it’s their lives on on on the line just like that too.
Scott McCarthy [00:32:38]:
And if you look at it from that context, you need to go win every day and you need to fight, but you need to do it in a way that you’re, 1, inspiring, 2, motivating, and, 3, do enabling your team to achieve its best.
Brain Slade [00:32:54]:
Yeah. I I learned a a pretty valuable lesson as a high school kid trying to compete in football, and I started late. I started as a sophomore in high school, but I ended up being pretty good, and good enough to even get picked up by colleges and sit on the bench. But, But, basically, that good. Right? Good, but not that good. So one thing my coach said that really just rang through with me, and I I started applying it, and Basically, I still apply it in everything I do, and that is if you’ll engage something with commitment, true commitment, not knowing what the outcome will be, Just commitment and courage. Right? Because not knowing what the outcome may be requires courage. You don’t you don’t know where this is going to go.
Brain Slade [00:33:41]:
You don’t know how crazy this is going to get. Right? And then the The equal sign on that equation is increased capability. As you apply commitment and courage to anything, You will have increased capability. And from increased capability, you get increased confidence, and then you can start that cycle all over again. So it’s just this building equation that just builds on itself and builds on itself. But in high school, I don’t know if this is how he intended me to pull to apply it, but, And this is in the book, the story. You know, you probably read it. When I went to tackle a guy, a got 1 of my guys came from the other side and hit my hand at the same time I was tackling him, and it literally shoved my middle finger all the way back into my hand.
Brain Slade [00:34:30]:
And so, like, folded up on itself and shoved it back in my hand. So to anybody looking at the hand. I have 3 fingers and a thumb and a bloody stump. Right? That’s that’s really what it looked like. Well, I didn’t look at it immediately. It happened. It hurt, and I shook it, and I didn’t look at it. I was just like, you know, and I and I didn’t think the figure was gone.
Brain Slade [00:34:49]:
I was just like, it hurt. And then I went to the next play, and I got down to go on the next play. And as my hand hit the ground, there was no return pressure for my middle finger. I looked down, and it was gone. And I was like, oh my gosh. I lost my finger. You know? But now we’re in the play, so I actually we we did the I actually got the tackle. This is something that we We figured out later, and we watched the video, and they’re, like, you actually got the tackle after you were missing your finger, you know.
Brain Slade [00:35:14]:
And I was, like, yeah. You know, you do what you do. And then I came out, and I was tapping my helmet, And my my coach is yelling at me because I never left the game. I was on there from start to finish, offense, defense, all special teams. And he’s like, what the hell are you coming off the field for? And I’m like, Coach, I’m not sure, but this doesn’t look right. You know? And and he’s like, oh, crap. And one of the you know, they’re like, we’re gonna stop this this game and find a finger. I was sitting there on the sideline holding my hand, kinda queasy, and, one of the co one of the, athletic trainers came over, coaches, and They’re like, look, I think your finger’s in your hand.
Brain Slade [00:35:47]:
I can see your fingernails sticking out. And, and so they said, you just need to pull on that. Right? And so, you know, and then, you know, I had to grab they grab my shut my are you okay? I’m like, yeah. Yeah. I’m just about to pass out. And and then it went in at halftime, and the back then, they could say this. I don’t think you can get away with it now, but they said, are you willing to go back at you wanna go back out and play? I said, yeah. So we commitment.
Brain Slade [00:36:09]:
Right? Courage. This is where the courage came into my head. That’s where this applied, commitment and courage. And so it hurt like a bitch, But we wrapped it all up, and we went back out there and I played that that game in the rest of the season. But that was just a powerful lesson to me, and I don’t think my coach meant meant it by, like, Play with a finger shoved back in your hand. But that’s how I took it. And and it still drove a lesson deep inside of me is that I just got better and better. And It was because of that commitment and courage, it increased my capability.
Brain Slade [00:36:39]:
And then, you know, like I said, an average athlete was selected to be at at a d one school, You know? And that’s that’s where that that’s where the benefit that’s where the payoff comes.
Scott McCarthy [00:36:54]:
Yeah. I almost threw up at that section of the book, by the way. Ugh, god. Like, honestly, you got a you got a weak stomach. You do not wanna read that story because you’d yeah. I almost throughout.
Brain Slade [00:37:08]:
I am I was queasy. I almost blacked out. I mean, I kept
Scott McCarthy [00:37:12]:
Yeah. No doubt. Yeah. I’m thinking some deuces myself. Nothing like that. But what I wanna hit at, though, is, like, that courage and commitment that you showed is individual. Or, sorry, what I want you to hit on after is, like, how did that inspire your team? Like, did that rally your team?
Brain Slade [00:37:29]:
So that’s, you know, that that’s the whole point of that story, and I didn’t even finish it. Right? So when I’m out there doing that, right, Everybody wanted to be engaged in that game more. They’re like, dude, if he’s out here with a busted hand, Freaking we can we can suck it up and play the best of our abilities. And that was the really one of the the other lesson to that whole thing was I learned that if you lead if you never 1, never ask anybody to do anything you’re not willing to do yourself. Don’t it doesn’t mean you have to do it, but you gotta be willing to do it because Sometimes roles and responsibilities dictate that you’re not gonna do it, but never ask them any to do anything you’re not willing to do. They’ll know they’ll know if you wouldn’t be willing to do it yourself. But when you do something, do it with intensity and do it with purpose, and people won’t just follow you. They’ll want to follow you.
Brain Slade [00:38:19]:
They won’t follow you because they feel like they have to. They’ll feel like you because they wanna they won’t follow you because they feel like they wanna be part of that. They wanna be part of that supporting crew. They wanna be part of that win. They wanna be part of that fight. You know? And and and so, yeah, I’m glad you asked that question because that lesson was very, Very important. And it applies to military, applies to business, it applies to relationships, it applies to pretty much anything you can you can think of.
Scott McCarthy [00:38:43]:
Yeah. It it it totally does. Right? You get you I love that, you know, wrap up. You got to show that you’re willing to do what you’re asking your team to do because If not, like you said, they’ll see you right through it. They’ll they’ll they’ll they’ll they’ll see you right through it.
Brain Slade [00:38:57]:
Oh, they will.
Scott McCarthy [00:38:58]:
You know, and you talked a lot about commitment and and, in courage. Just wondering from your from your experiences, stuff like this. You know? I’ll I’ll preface the question with What I’m hearing a lot right now from leaders is, oh, people aren’t committed. We had the great resignation going on. There’s this problem with their team. There’s that problem with their team. How do I do this with my team? I you know? And, ultimately, I’m getting at is, like, how do we Still listen our team in this day and age from your from your experience and your standpoint so that we don’t have these issues and that our team themselves are actually committed, and they’re they’re going with with courage, and they’re taking you know, the ones that are taking their fingers out of their hands and and going up for the next tackle and stuff like this. How do we get our teams, you know, aligned with that?
Brain Slade [00:39:50]:
Well, I think the first thing you hit on is ownership. It’s ownership. These guy we’re, oh, we can’t do it because this get this this culture or this that culture. I’m not arguing whether the culture’s changed or not. That’s probably that is true. I can’t even say probably. That is true. Culture’s changed.
Brain Slade [00:40:06]:
But are you a leader or you’re not? If you’re in charge, you’re in charge. And and that means that ownership is on you. Right? And and and the same those same those same truths hold. You still lead with intensity. You still lead with purpose. You still don’t ask them to do anything you aren’t willing to do it yourself. But if you do that and you hold yourself accountable accountable. You have every right to hold them accountable as well.
Brain Slade [00:40:29]:
Right? And as they see that pattern, The guys that you wanna keep, you’ll keep. Right? The guys that you you’ll want on your team, they will rise up and be on your team. Right? There’s also a filtering process. If they don’t wanna be there and that’s all the way that you’re leading, you’re leading that way, those aren’t the guys you want on your team anyway. Right? So but I would argue that most people will rise. Most people will rise. Most people have more potential than they even realize themselves. Actually, I’d say all people.
Brain Slade [00:41:03]:
Every person has more potential than they can realize, because In my mind’s eye, we have infinite potential. So you’ll never understand it. You can never categorize it. You can never put a cap on it. It you you can’t You cannot define it because I think we have infinite potential. You know?
Scott McCarthy [00:41:23]:
That, my friend, is the quote of the show right there, infinite potential. I absolutely love it. But I liked what you hit on, and as the accountability aspect and showing up and leading with intense in leading with passion and conviction and purpose. I think right now what’s happening is a lot of leaders out there feel like they need to walk on eggshells. Oh, I don’t wanna I don’t wanna hurt hurt their feelings or piss them off because I’m scared they’re gonna lead. Leave. Well, I think that’s actually the wrong way to go about it. I think where people when people see that, you know, we have a you have a team there that’s holding each other accountable, not in a negative way.
Scott McCarthy [00:42:02]:
Like, oh, you screwed up. You’re sacked. You you don’t know what they’re doing. Like, hey. You got this wrong. Come here. Let me teach you. Let me empower you.
Scott McCarthy [00:42:09]:
Let me lift you up. This is how I’m gonna hold you accountable. I’m gonna actually empower you. And teach you what you need to do, empower you to do it, and then follow-up from time to time if you’re you go astray a little bit to get you back on the right track. That is actually more motivating than going, you made a mistake, but I’m just gonna fix it here. And the and the and the employee sitting there going, well, the boss Doesn’t really care what I do. I can do whatever I want. No.
Scott McCarthy [00:42:32]:
This is actually boring. It sucks, and I’m not motivated because I’m not being actually challenged. So oh, what’s this over here? Oh, look at this job posting. Oh, yeah. That looks interesting. They give me a little bit more pay. Let’s give it a shot. Right? Like, to me, that’s that’s the problem going on right now.
Brain Slade [00:42:50]:
And it starts it starts with holding yourself account.
Scott McCarthy [00:42:53]:
Brain Slade [00:42:53]:
100%. Hold yourself account hold yourself accountable, And then all roads lead from there. Right? So and and and they’ll see that. Just like when what we talked about earlier. If you’re if you’re asking people to do things you’re not willing to do, they’ll know that. And the opposite is true. If you’re asking people that you think do things that you’re more than willing They will they will know that, and they will either feel a desire or drive to rise up to that, or or or they’re probably not the person you want in that than that position, which I like I say, I’ll reiterate this. Most of the time, they’ll rise.
Brain Slade [00:43:30]:
Most of the time, they will rise. So there’s not a lot of those dead weight people. Well, I’m still active duty. You’re still active duty. Like, you know, combat search and rescue is is is my game these days. And, You know, we get a lot of new guys coming in, and, yeah, they have a little bit more lackadaisical view on life altogether. But once they start feeling that camaraderie and that team unity and that credo of that others may live and know that they have a Crucial part in that, they’re there. They’re committed.
Brain Slade [00:44:05]:
They put it all over their cars. They put it all over every I mean, I don’t do that. But, like, You know, they have they wear the they wear the swag. They they’re proud to be part of that. Right? You know, and if guys not producing or not giving it, we’ll give them a hard time if they do wear that crap. Like, hey, you ain’t earned that stuff yet, you know? And, that’s part of the camaraderie too.
Scott McCarthy [00:44:28]:
Yeah. I I currently work at a high readiness unit. So for what that means to the audience is, like, I show up to work every day, not knowing if I’m coming home. And I’ve been at times wherein, I looked at one of my guys. I’m like, hey, I need you to go, and I need you to go Thursday. Like, alright. And this was Tuesday. Right? Like, 48 less than 48 hours notice, and that’s just the life we live.
Scott McCarthy [00:44:49]:
But When people are getting screened, like, we go through a process. We call it screening process to check to make sure that they’re good before they’re formally sent to us. I call them up before we even get to that point, and I say, hey. This is what life’s like here. Let me let me run down. I’m like, are you all in, or are you all out? Because if you’re not all in, that’s cool. I don’t mind. Yo.
Scott McCarthy [00:45:07]:
This gig ain’t for everybody. If you if you say yes, then I need you I need you in. And I and they’re like, yeah. I’m like, okay. Let’s go. So I bring him in, and and then we get, you know, bring him into the team and stuff like this, and we empower them and, like, hey. You know, this is your job. This is what I need you to do.
Scott McCarthy [00:45:23]:
And what you need, I got your back. I’ll do whatever I can, but it’s that team that team aspect of camaraderie. But, again, that’s that accountability saying, hey. This is what the organization expects from you, and I need to know whether or not you can achieve that. Because if you can’t, well, you know, thanks, but no thanks. But if you can, the you know? But if you can, and but you’re like, hey. I’m not comfortable in this area or that area. No big deal.
Scott McCarthy [00:45:46]:
We can work with that.
Brain Slade [00:45:49]:
Yeah. And I I I like something they said there is, you know, this this game isn’t for everybody, and that’s true. There is a game for everybody. This might not be it. You know what I mean? Like like, we all have our own skill sets and capabilities. And for the most part, we naturally filter to where we where we can belong. And that’s why I say most of the time, they’ll rise, because they’re already naturally filtered that way. They already chose in Several times.
Brain Slade [00:46:13]:
Right? And so even if they’re putting forth that minimalistic effort, or maybe even may have an attitude problem, they’ve already Done things that say I wanna be here. Right? So most of the time, if we take ownership and we lead, they’ll follow. But every once in a while, we get it wrong, and it’s just not a good fit. It’s just not a good fit. And that’s a leadership challenge in and of itself. You need to exercise tumors. If the tumor’s there and it’s a tumor and it’s it’s malignant, having taken that hard stance is actually better for the the health of the whole.
Scott McCarthy [00:46:47]:
Yeah. Absolutely. Or you end up finding a better fit for that person where they’re, you know, more productive, happier, feel part of the team. So for the leaders out there, what what Brian is saying is isn’t like this, you know, it may come to a point where you need to terminate, you can also go ahead and try different things before you get to that point. Like, okay. You’re not great here in IT. Let’s try or data intro. Let’s try you somewhere else.
Scott McCarthy [00:47:08]:
Let’s try you in this job. How about that job? What actually interests you? And actually have that conversation. But if someone has a character flaw where they show up and they’re like a cancer or they’re causing conflict off center, then, yeah, that’s gotta go. 100%.
Brain Slade [00:47:23]:
Yeah. So we we we recently just had an experience with this. We had an officer come over from the finance branch. What thought they wanted to be a pilot. Right? More than competent, scared. Right? And we tried to work through that, tried to do all these things, but it was just this phobia that was that was amplifying and growing. But this officer actually had this, phenomenal skill set with administrative and clerical stuff because they came from the finance, but they just could do all kinds of things that us a lot of us pilots have to do in our jobs because they make us do it. And we’re like, we hate that crap.
Brain Slade [00:47:59]:
Right? And and so that’s a perfect fit for her. She is killing it. She’s getting all that stuff done, and she’s more grateful now of that job because she experienced the one that just wasn’t a good fit. She’s like, you know what? I was where I was supposed to be. You know? This is where this is where I need to be, and I can contribute here, and and she does.
Scott McCarthy [00:48:25]:
That’s a awesome story. Roman, man, we could go all night. Well, unfortunately, all good things are gonna come to an end, brother. But before we wrap up, I do got a couple last questions for you. And the first question is a question I ask all the guests here at the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast, and that is according to you, Brian Slade. What makes a great leader?
Brain Slade [00:48:46]:
I would say I would say ownership. We talked on it. You gotta take ownership of your stuff first. Right? You do that first and people will follow. There’s I mean, leadership, there’s all kinds of, you know, important aspects. But I think If you take ownership, you can hone all those other
Scott McCarthy [00:49:08]:
aspects. Yeah. I I I could definitely sense that coming. It’s it’s interesting. A lot of the military, Lot of the military guests or former military guests, they have something along the lines of ownership, accountability, stuff like that, which, you know, gets spread into us pretty quick, which is a definitely, I say, a good thing. Alright. Final question to show. How can people find you, follow you? Shameless plug.
Scott McCarthy [00:49:27]:
It’s all about you now, man. Have at it. You’re cleared hot.
Brain Slade [00:49:32]:
Yeah. Well, I’m gonna give you all the links that you can you can apply it to thing, but I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram under Brian Slade on all of them. Cleared hot dot info. Ww.clearedhot.info is my website. Amazon, you can get the book. There’s it’s at some bookstores, but don’t waste your time going to the bookstore. Just border it on Amazon. It’ll come to your front door.
Brain Slade [00:49:54]:
You can get it on my website too, but if I’m honest, it gets to your house Faster with Amazon, and I’m not plugging Amazon, but but it is just faster that way. But I’ll I’ll I’ll shoot you the links, and anybody that feels like this reached out to him in any way, we do have Some follow on trainings too that are merely help with
Scott McCarthy [00:50:12]:
resilience. Yeah. And for the, listeners always, it’s easy. Go to lead del boss.comforward/248248.
Brain Slade [00:50:20]:
Scott McCarthy [00:50:20]:
the show notes. Brian, my friend. It’s been an honor. It’s been a pleasure. Lieutenant colonel Brian Slipp, Thank you
Brain Slade [00:50:25]:
very much. Colonel, thank you
Scott McCarthy [00:50:30]:
much. And that’s a wrap for this episode, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting the peak performance leadership podcast. But you know what you could do to truly support Podcast. And no, that’s not leaving a rating and review. It’s simply helping a friend, and that is helping a friend by Sharing this episode with them if you think this would resonate with them and help them elevate their performance level, whether that’s within themselves, their teams, or their organization. So do that.
Scott McCarthy [00:51:02]:
Help me. Help a friend. Win win all around, and, hey, you look like a great friend at the same time. So just hit that little share button on your app, and then feel free to fire this episode to anyone that you feel would benefit from it. Finally, there’s always more. There’s always more lessons around being the highest performing leader that you can possibly be, whether that’s for yourself, your team, or your organization. So why don’t you subscribe? Subscribe to the show of the moving forward leadership .comforward/subscribe. Until next time, we eat.
Scott McCarthy [00:51:43]:
Don’t boss, And thanks for coming out. Take care now.