Leading Through Chaos by Scott Mann Book Summary

We recently welcomed retired Lt. Col. Scott Mann as the keynote speaker at the TeamStrength Leadership Workshop 2021.  You may remember him from his TED talk, Rooftop Leadership, where he spoke on how to connect and lead when the stakes are high. His words on leading from the rooftops and building trust has more relevance than ever. Scott’s book, Leading Through Chaos: Thrive Like a Green Beret, is peppered with exceptional stories of his own leadership oversees and hits on principles that are extremely timely as well as fundamental rules that are timeless.

He starts by focusing inward and leading yourself. “Rooftop Leadership is the management of energy and the most important [and toughest] energy you’ll learn to manage is your own.”

Scott Mann talks about regaining self-control past the fear-based response of a crisis through diaphragmatic breathing, grounding ourselves in our immediate senses and using strategies such as HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) to evaluate our current needs and adjust. He combines these in a Pre-Engagement Preparation method where you start with three lower-body breaths, and then you repeat the phrase, “I have time.” You end by asking yourself three questions and answering them out loud – Who am I? Why am I here? What do people need from me?

“Remember, fear is contagious… but so is leadership.”

As a Green Beret, Scott has seen many types of chaos. To move from chaos to order:

(1) Accept that we’re never going to tame the chaos. There are events we have no control over.
(2) Resign yourself to ride the wave of chaos and let go of the order that was.
(3) Instill more discipline and routine. As Scott’s dad says, “Even in chaos, there is rhythm.”
(4) Avoid headline saturation. Take it in limited doses and combine it with activities you love.

When it comes to your organizations and working with a larger group of people it becomes less about order (which can be out of your control) and more about taming the complexity of the situation. Scott starts by simplifying the complex problem into bite size pieces and identifying the wicked problems that we have no control over. Turn these into questions like, ‘How will we maintain morale and engagement while social distancing?’ Collaboration is a super power, so bring others in and make sure the problem is framed in the lens of different people. Then identify the key players and work on execution with a focus on a collaborative approach with over-communication.

Connection in times of crisis has never been more important – a message we’ve heard echoed throughout the TeamStrength membership during this pandemic. Scott reminds us to ensure we’re nurturing emotional connections through three different lens: meaning – connecting with why; emotional – helping your team manage their energy; and social – monitoring the ‘connection health’ of your organization with strategies and regular check-ins.

As a leader, he also talks about establishing your red lines (a baseline principle to measure your decisions against), harnessing the power of storytelling and building the vision out of this, and focusing on being relevant and relatable to continue to close connection gaps at your company.

“Right now, people are going to follow two things: relevance and relatability.”

Other topics Scott hits on in his book include establishing a battle rhythm in the midst of chaos, building presence as a business with structure and clear communication strategies, honing in in on the 4Rs – Rhythm, Ritual, Rigor and Recovery – and more.

Scott’s goal is aligned with ours – to work with businesses and leaders on emerging from this crisis as a beacon of leadership and strength. Take time to reflect on how far you’ve come already in this pandemic and prepare yourself for what could possibly come next with Scott’s book, Leading Through Chaos.