As many of you are aware, Dallas was hit by some very fearsome and deadly tornadoes earlier this week. I am happy to report that there were no fatalities here in Dallas and that our office escaped unscathed. In hind sight it would be easy to forget how intense that afternoon was. Well, the reality is that things got pretty “real” up here on the seventh floor or our all glass building. With tornado sirens blaring outside and the building security officer screaming over the PA system to take cover and seek an interior closet, the office was in danger of falling apart. People were scared. I took one look into the teary eyes of our accounts team, and realized that things were about to get out of control, but I was paralyzed. My years of leadership training at the Naval Academy were rendered useless by an inexplicable desire to stand at the window and watch in the hopes of actually seeing the beast. When I could look away, I saw that the office was about to descend into the chaos of panic and fear. That was until one man stepped up and answered the bell.
That man was Reid Wakefield. Ashley Payne, an eye witness to the events in the office that day, recalled: “It seemed like he became a different person after he put on the vest.” I am not sure if he derived power from the vest, or the vest was just an outward symbol of his inner fire, but I do know that out of the chaos rose one voice, barking commands and assuring everyone that the situation was under control. What he said is a little blurry, but another eye witness, Melissa Jacobowski remembers him saying “Calm down everyone, get in the hallway. I own this. Bryan, stop messing around and get in the hall or I’ll lock you in the electrical closet. (Voice raises) I said calm down! I watched a tornado special on Discovery. It had all kinds or meteorolological (sic) or whatever stuff. I know what I am doing!” All of the sudden, there was only one voice. As I watched the sky from the window, I heard the muffled sounds of compliance as Reid shouted his orders. At some point, he found a whistle. Some would say that his use of the whistle was a little excessive given the close quarters, but it is hard to argue the results. Brittany Martin, an account exec shared “I was actually a little scared of Reid. He had this wild look in his eyes, like he was actually just barely under control himself. When I tried to ask a question, he just blew the whistle really loud in my face and pointed at me with a really mean look. I didn’t ask any more questions.” That’s what it is all about. Leaders don’t wait for someone to ask them to lead. They don’t hesitate. They lead. Something special happened in the office that afternoon. We have always known that Reid was a talented coder who could sometimes successfully participate in a casual conversation, but that day something changed. A leader was born. Our office feels a little safer these days. I think it’s because we feel like we’re ready for anything. We can confidently focus on the task at hand regardless of what may be happening on the other side of the glass, resting in the knowledge that Reid is here and that the orange vest is just waiting to be donned, right where it belongs, in our leader’s top drawer.