4 Tools Great Leaders Use to Avoid Pulling the Chicken Switch

Guest Author: Kit Allowitz

The “chicken switch” is the ejection cord inside the cockpit of an F16 fighter jet.  The F16 is a $50 million-dollar piece of machinery that blares through the sky at speeds faster than the speed of sound.  Pilots are often faced in the moment with highly charged, high stakes decisions whose outcomes determine the course of the future…  sound anything like leadership? Pilots train relentlessly and intentionally to stay present, poised and cognizant in those high stakes moments to remain with the plane and the mission, not pulling the chicken switch when faced with confronting circumstances.

Great leaders plan and train and don’t pull the chicken switch.

Here are 4 tools you can use to up your leadership game and insure you don’t eject from the leadership cockpit-


Maximize DESIRE to be a great leader.

TS Eliot said, “Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.”  May I add to the statement and say, “Everything is possible if our desire is strong enough.”

Being a great leader isn’t always easy.  It takes a lot of desire to get there, be there, stay there.  If desire is not strong for leadership excellence, then it’s attainment severely decreases.  Today, I find it most helpful to measure one’s level of desire for leadership greatness on a scale between 1 and 10 with 1 being no desire and 10 being very strong desire.  When asked to help others, coach others, and work with leaders, I will often start with a scale of 1 to 10 inquiry.  If I don’t get an 8, 9, or 10 answer back, for me that is a yellow light.  A yellow light is not a deal stopper but is a caution.  A yellow light means slow down and better understand how to align goals and motivators.  An 8, 9 or 10 is key to having the motivation to face the challenges that will inevitably come about in the pursuit of leadership greatness.

Desire helps you to not pull the chicken switch for leadership greatness. What it looks like: 

It looks like being curious, being open, taking time to think and being cognizant of how you think about what you think.  As Professor Matthew Chodkowski with the University of Indianapolis is fond of asking and then stating,

“What’s the greatest difference between any two leaders?”

Answer: “How they think.”


Maximize DISCIPLINE to be a great leader.

Discipline is the ability to follow through on a commitment after the emotion of making that commitment has passed.

Discipline helps you not pull the chicken switch for leadership greatness. What it looks like:

It looks like being your word!  This means if you say you are going to do something, you do it.  Giving your word allows you and other parties involved to know that you attach your personal integrity to the promises you make.  It means that you will keep those promises because that is who you are.  When you are disciplined and are your word, you promise yourself to make only authentic commitments.  Henry David Thoreau states, “Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.”

Discipline is the road that turns commitment into completion.


Maximize WILLPOWER to be a great leader.

Willpower is the ability to exercise will.  It’s the ability to make conscious choices as a leader.  It is the ability to control impulses and therefore determine behavior.  While discipline gives rise to the routine that will shape how we weather the storms that rage against leadership greatness, willpower is the energy and motivation we have and must find within ourselves to keep walking into the strong head winds toward excellence.

Willpower helps you not pull the chicken switch for leadership greatness. What it looks like:

Doggedness, tenacity, persistence, patience and temperance!  Be committed to building a reservoir of self-control, restraint, determination and resolve.  B.K.S. Iyengar says that “Willpower is nothing but willingness to do.”



Leadership greatness takes energy. Leaders physiological (body) and psychological (mind) systems are the machines that fuel leadership energy.

The physiological and psychological systems help you not pull the chicken switch for leadership greatness. What it looks like:

Acknowledging that while willpower and discipline are a good framework for leadership excellence, the physiological and psychological systems are the operational drivers for leadership distinction.  When honed, they utilize desire, discipline and willpower as tools in reaching what is desired.

The physiological and psychological systems are really the anti-chicken switching fuel for leadership excellence.

Expecting your leadership greatness to reach its full potential while neglecting fuel and exercise for the body and mind is not how the science of things work.

Physiologically, well planned and executed nutrition, exercise and rest are necessary.  There is no short-cut. Not taking care of the body and expecting it to operate at peak performance in critical moments will not work sustainably. You may ride the tracks on the edge of physical care for a time, yet eventually cracks will appear, and physical breakdown will affect leadership capabilities.

Psychologically, there are many things to do, try, be and think related to driving more ability for leadership greatness.  Taking time to think, read, meditate, memorize, set goals, write down your goals and plan for them, see the end in mind and listen to other leaders’ successes (and failures) are all powerful ways to grow your psychological capacity for leadership excellence.

These 4 tools – desire, discipline, willpower and physiological and psychological health and balance – are 4 tools that arm a leader to not chicken out and eject when leadership greatness is needed.

All the mentioned items are important to do, you know they could make a difference, but they are rarely urgent things to do…and anything important, but not urgent is at risk of being neglected, put off or not done at all.

At times leadership can feel like being in the cockpit of an F16 plane.  An expensive array of complex components, moving parts and confusing buttons all moving at a breakneck pace.  Our lives offer many choices, many decisions, many curves in the road.

Available to us is a cadre of tools, resources, and instruments allowing us to navigate our F16 plane with precision as called upon by the situation.  Just like an F16 fighter pilot, we are at certain times called on to make difficult choices and act in tough situations, often with very little time for consideration. Sometimes those decisions are mission critical, like completing an important assignment on time or treating someone with respect and dignity.  Other times it’s important, but not urgent, like getting up to exercise in the morning or telling someone they did a great job. In those moments, we must rely on our previous training, and use of tools to make leadership greatness choices.

It is within our reach? Yes. Does it require knowledge, awareness, power over choice, commitment, dedication to practice and accountability? Yes. Is it worth it to gain these tools and fulfill your goals?


Did you know:  I publish a daily short 1.5-minute Nugget related to Not Pulling the Chicken Switch. You should check it out!  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=kit+allowitz

Check out my book to get some principle-based insights to reduce Chicken Switching in your life. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=kit+allowitz

For more information about Kit Allowitz, Don’t Pull the Chicken Switch, and access to a free 7 day course that will help you identify what it is you desire and give you access to having everything you want out of work and life visit https://www.chickenswitching.com/