U.S. Department of Defense


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FROM: Leadership in Dangerous Situations : A Handbook for the Armed Forces, Emergency Services, and First Responders. Edited by Patrick J. Sweeney, Michael D. Matthews, and Paul B. Lester (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011).


US government work


Dangerous contexts are those in which the stakes are high and where there may be little time to develop or discuss a course of action. Unquestioning and immediate obedience may be demanded precisely because deliberating or discussing might delay responding and thereby increase danger or decrease chances of survival. In some cases, there may be time for deliberation and discussion, even if there is pressure to act quickly. Reaching the right conclusions when the chips are down can be facilitated by having considered in advance one's obligation to obey an order versus responsibility to oneself, one's values, and others who may be affected by actions taken. This chapter considers legal constraints on behavior and scientific evidence that helps frame thinking about the pressures people may face and how to resist them. Two fictitious scenarios are used to illustrate the application of these considerations in practice.