Using Danica’s Outburst as a Leadership Lesson

Learn as a Leader

Many of you may have heard about racecar driver Danica Patrick’s reaction to a crash last week.  She was understandably upset about being wrecked for the third time in four weeks, however it was her apparent insensitivity to another driver that hit the airwaves.   Danica was being interviewed immediately after the crash while Aric Almirola was being cut from his racecar and airlifted to a hospital after suffering broken vertebra in his back, and her initial comments were all about her frustration and bad luck.  It took almost two minutes before she expressed concern for Aric. 

Leadership Lessons

While it’s unlikely anyone believes that Danica would wish harm to a fellow driver, her comments seemed insensitive and self-centered.  What can a leader learn from this situation?

All Eyes Are On The Leader

First, as a leader, it’s important to remember that all eyes are on you.  Your employees are always watching you, whether you realize it or not.  Some of them will observe your behavior and then emulate you, with the assumption that is how you’d like them to behave as well.

A Leader Remains in Control

Second, if you feel the need to have an emotional outburst, excuse yourself from the situation until you can gain control of yourself.  Danica could have said, “No comment”, and waited until later to be interviewed.  By giving the interview while she was still in “fight or flight” mode, she was unable to access higher levels of emotional intelligence and reasoning. 

A Strong Leader Takes Responsibility

Third, Danica talked about bad luck, and said that “every time I’m doing better, something stupid happens”.  How would you respond if your employees complained in that manner?  A strong leader should take responsibility and look at the situation as an opportunity to learn something.  It’s often the most difficult times that lead to the greatest growth for an individual or a company.

A Leader Remains Positive

Finally, let’s remember that our words and our attitude have a significant impact on our success.  If we focus on the negative side of things, we’ll continue to make that our truth.  However, if we focus on the potential opportunity to learn and grow, that will soon become our truth.

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6 thoughts on “Using Danica’s Outburst as a Leadership Lesson

  1. Let me ask you this – when were you last in a race car risking your life at every second on the racetrack with adrenalin running through your veins at maximum levels. Then someone shoves a microphone in your face after a bad incident and asks you a dumb question on live TV. Quite frankly, the interviewer was lucky that Dana was still strapped in and that was all she allegedly said!!! 🙂

    I think you should find a better teaching example!

  2. I agree completely that talking publicly while in the middle of a highly charge emotional event is something we should all avoid, leader or not. Second, when we do violate the vow of silence, and almost all of us do from time to time, apologize sincerely and take full responsibility for your lapse of judgment and etiquette. Most people accept we aren’t perfect, and humility goes a long way toward healing the consequences of our mistakes.

  3. Some dear consultant friends once wrote a leadership book with a take-away line I never forgot: “You Can Never Not Lead.” A frequent reminder for me. When I can detach from my own amygdala hijacks I am better able to remember that.

    Further, Danica said something else that left a clue to something inherent to her mind’s unconscious wiring, in my opinion. Again, not easy to access when triggered as she obviously was. The comment, “every time I’m doing better, something stupid happens.” Quite possibly a familiar limiting belief pattern that repeats from time to time in her life.

    That accident must have been quite a traumatic experience for her. I have to agree with Chris’s comment. While some things said may be unkind or cruel, a heavy dose of compassion is called for IMHO.

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