by Bill, Exemplars, Extra Milers, Leadership

We Need More Like Daniel Hernandez

1 Comment 13 January 2011

Daniel Hernandez

Were I still a corporate recruiter, I would have been on the phone this morning with University of Arizona junior, Daniel Hernandez talking about his future. With both words and deeds, Mr. Hernandez has, since last Saturday’s Tucson massacre, demonstrated many of the essential requirements of being a leader, at any level. Here are four that quickly come to mind:

Courage – Leaders are those we can count on to do the right thing, even when it is difficult, dangerous, or unpopular. Wading unarmed into a free fire zone to administer aid and comfort to one’s teammates certainly qualifies. While thankfully leaders don’t often have to get shot at to prove their mettle, our people do expect to see us personally absorbing some of the risk and punishment that is headed their way.

Decisive – Leaders must have the willingness and ability to act in the face of adversity, uncertainty, and the absence of guidelines. Mr. Hernandez had no clue what lay ahead when he jumped in to assist U.S. Rep., Gabrielle Giffords. It is doubtful that in his young life he had taken courses or read anything that told him to act, but act he did. Especially in today’s risk averse corporate environment, recruiters should screen and probe diligently to ensure that all candidates destined for a management position can demonstrate this quality.

Able to Focus and Communicate – As one who makes a significant portion of his living speaking to large audiences, I can vouch for the fact that efficiently and persuasively articulating a cogent message before a sea of faces (let alone the President of the United States and a world-wide tv audience) can be daunting. Doing it the for the first time on short notice, with short rest, no teleprompter or notes (even on the palm of your hand) is remarkable.

Humility – One of the greatest challenges I find leaders struggling with is the realization that leading is not about “them”, but about others. Given a perfect opportunity to grandstand or take a victory lap, Mr. Hernandez chose instead to deflect hero status to others he deemed more deserving, and focus instead on a powerful message. His behavior stands in stark contrast to a population that at times seems entirely too self-absorbed.

In a nutshell, I don’t know what young Mr. Hernandez wants to do with his life, but I do know this… We could do worse than look for “Hernandez-like” qualities as we go about searching for tomorrow’s leaders.


A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the new released book, Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at


- who has written 239 posts on Contented Cows.

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1 comment

  1. Philip says:

    Bill, you couldn’t be more right-on regarding Daniel, and the traits he has displayed.

    He deserves a lot of praise and reward, not only because of what he did, but also the way in which he has carried himself afterwards.

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

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