On October 22, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada, a man walked up to the Canadian War Memorial and shot dead an unarmed soldier on ceremonial sentry duty. The killer then ran into a parliament building while Members of Parliament were attending caucuses. The Prime Minister of Canada was in the building at the time.

The gunman was cornered, shot and killed by Commons Sergeant at Arms, Kevin Vickers. The Sergeant At Arms of the House of Commons is responsible for the safety and security of the Parliament Buildings and carries the ceremonial gold Mace into the House of Commons before every sitting. Vickers wasn’t carrying a loaded weapon at the time, but pulled a 9 mm handgun from a locked box. He threw himself on the ground and fired 3 shots that killed the gunman.

Vickers was in the RCMP for 29 years and held senior positions throughout his career and was awardedKevinVickers many honours. When he was appointed as Sargeant At Arms in 2006, he was quoted as saying, “…I told them that if they made me their sergeant-at-arms, there would be no walls built around Canada’s Parliamentary buildings…I have kept my promise.” According to Vicker’s niece, he had never shot anyone in his career.

There is no doubt that Kevin Vickers is both a hero and a leader.   What leadership lessons can we learn from him?

Firstly, leaders are very clear about their values – in other words, where they stand on important issues.   Kevin Vickers is a man firmly grounded in his values. He has devoted his career to serving and protecting Canada and the freedom and justice for Canadians.  Helping clients become clear about your values is what coaches do. Here are a couple of exercises you can do: think of a “peak experience” – a time when you were in flow and everything was wonderful.   Jot down everything about the experience and ask yourself, “what is important to me here?”   Another exercise is to look at any area of your life (money, relationship, career) and rate how satisfied you are out of 10 (with 0 being deeply unsatisfied and 10 being highly satisfied.) Then spend time examining what it is like to be in that place.   What’s showing up?   After this, pick a number that would be ideal – say 9/10, and think about what would that be like.   Where would I be? Who would I be with?   What would I be doing?     When you feel yourself getting energized and excited, those are your values showing up! Start noticing when your values are being honoured and dishonoured.

Secondly, Vickers is highly competent. We want those who lead us to excel at what they do.   Vickers was highly trained and trusted his instincts when it mattered. You can’t take short cuts here. Decide what you want to excel at and go for it! Ask for help, read everything, meet with people who are passionate about what you are passionate about. Continue to learn and develop throughout your life.

Thirdly, Kevin Vickers is a man who is highly intrinsically motivated.   When he was given a standing ovation in the House of Commons, he stood poised and accepted the applause, but has not gone seeking fame and fortune because of his heroic act.   He did what he did because it was the right thing to do.     Intrinsic motivation is being motivated from the inside – a fire in the belly.   Extrinsic motivation is things like money, material possessions, praise – something outside yourself.   Coaching can be a huge help here in developing intrinsic motivation.

We like to think that people are rewarded for being leaders, and in this case it’s true! Kevin Vickers has since been appointed the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland as a result.   When you have a success, reward yourself and celebrate!

Become the leader you are meant to be!


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