CEO Coaching: Leadership From the Knights of Malta

My youngest son served in the United States Marine Corps and then went to college and had a relatively short career in sales. Searching for the purpose and camaraderie he had in the Marines, he decided in his late 30s to become a firefighter—not easy as there are 100 applicants for every opening, but he made it. He recently finished fire academy and became a firefighter.

At his graduation ceremony, the keynote speaker talked about the Knights of Malta—warriors who became servants to those in need, and also the genesis of firefighters. I was curious so did a bit of digging.

While the history is a bit mysterious, the Maltese Cross is the base emblem for many fire departments today. The eight points on the cross represent eight virtues, and I was struck by how pertinent they were to the men and women of distinction whom I’ve worked with in business leadership. See what you think.

  1. Observation. Situational awareness. The talented leaders whom I’ve coached watch and listen as much as they speak.
  2. Tact. Oh boy are we missing the mark on this one in our current polarized environment!
  3. Dexterity. Firefighters need to respond to many different situations, as do leaders. You need many tools in the toolbox, experience in using them, and the nimbleness to figure out solutions to new problems.
  4. Explicitness. Clarity of communication. Meaningful messages.
  5. Perseverance. I’ve never met a successful executive who gave up easily!
  6. Sympathy. Self-absorbed leaders typically aren’t successful over the long run, and most people with talent won’t work for them.
  7. Gallantry. Courtesy and bravery. Only the best have both.
  8. Loyalty. Commitment to the company’s success. Not blind loyalty to a flawed mission or leader, but to the team.

I’m glad this made my “I wonder…” list. It’s a great set of leadership attributes from a source I wasn’t aware of.

The best CEOs that I have worked with think deeply about the question, “Who should I be as a leader.” This model seems to offer some great insight! How do you stack up?

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