“Break hard right now!” the crew chief of the search-and-rescue helicopter yelled over the radio. Until that moment, the flight had been relatively uneventful. The weather was good, and the five-person crew had executed this same routine several times a week. The crew chief’s words shattered the calm. The pilot’s response at the controls was an instinctive and immediate hard right turn. The crew chief continued, “Keep it coming, sir. Keep it coming. OK, roll out!” Again, the pilot complied without hesitation. “Alright, sir, descend about 500 feet,” the chief continued. “OK, sir, that’s good, you can level off. You’ve got it.”
Exercising authority as a leader is not always about where authority formally resides; sometimes it is about who has the best situational awareness at any given time and can provide the best guidance in achieving the overall mission or objective. That is the individual to whom leadership should transfer, at least for long enough to see the team through the transition of circumstances. This is the essence of tactical leadership and one of many ways to effectively exercise authority as a good leader.