I attended a refresher course for first aid this week. The instructor had a style of teaching that I found engaging and impactful.

I took away the following the lessons of leadership that transcend the specific course materials.

Principles before Technique

Prior to diving into the ratio of rescue breaths to chest compressions, hand placement, airway check, pulse taking, etc. etc. etc. He discussed principles. As obvious as it may seem it was useful to take a step back to examine what normal functioning looks like. How many breaths do we take at rest? How often does our heart beat? What is the function of the lungs? What is the function of the heart? How would you adjust your approach based on vital signs?

The techniques for CPR have changed over the years. Factors driving these changes include both advances in medical knowledge and adjustments based on peoples anxiety over mouth to mouth resuscitation.

In the face of these changes, the instructor brought the class back to the basic principles of getting oxygen into the blood and getting it to the brain. Less worry on technique and more focus on principle.

Tell Stories

The instructor had years of experience as a first responder. He aligned the specific skills that he was teaching with principles through stories from his personal experience. He shared stories that highlighted when the textbook approach worked, when it didn’t and why.

The stories included everything from drowning victims and chocking victims to stealing gas. The common thread was the concept of gravity and how to use it to your advantage. He told nature stories that related veterinary procedures for newborn calves and how they can be applied to save the life of an infant. He elicited a basic understanding of the function of nature and how to use the forces to your advantage.

Make it Personal

The course participants were there because of their jobs. The instructor acknowledged this fact and reminded participants that these skills are most likely to be used while you are at the lake or a family gathering, at a sports event with your children or when looking after your nieces and nephews. Throughout the course he would stop after teaching a specific skill and ask the participants:

“Could you use this knowledge of nature, gravity and apply this skill to make a difference in someones life?”


Can developing a greater understanding of the principles of nature enhance your leadership? What can we learn about leadership from observing chimpanzees, wolves, elephants?

What forces of nature govern human behavior? How can you use them, like gravity, to your advantage?

Is it possible to improve or save your marriage by becoming more skillful in leading your team? Could the same blind spots in your leadership that are contributing to employee turnover be producing conditions ripe for your spouse having an affair?