Understanding ‘In Extremis Leadership’ from A Local and Global Leader

When Col. Timothy LaBarge speaks, people listen.

And they listen closely.

Such was the case at this morning’s (March 10) Chamber membership breakfast where about 175 fortunate individuals heard Col. LaBarge’s thoughts on how to be a leader under pressure – “In Extremis Leadership.”

As the keynote speaker for the Chamber’s Leadership breakfasts for each of the past three years, Col. LaBarge, Commander of the 105th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard, continues to deliver remarkable messages about how to be a good leader. Supported by his own “high speed, low drag leadership team” at the 105th, Col. LaBarge’s presentation today outlined in fascinating detail the key steps in achieving “extremis leadership.”

Prior to sharing these valuable pointers, however, the Commander spoke emotionally about the most recent tests of his own leadership at the 105th: the aftermath of the combat deaths of three members of the 105th — Todd “TJ” Lobraico in 2013 and Louis Bonacasa and Joseph Lemm late last year. Leadership doesn’t get any challenging than this.

How does “In Extremis Leadership” work? Col. LaBarge recommends:

  1. If you have faith, tap into it. Whether this is providence, God, a higher power – don’t hesitate to go there for support and direction.
  2. If in doubt, communicate. It helps to know your people in advance and sharing information with your team is crucial to motivating them successfully and gaining their trust and confidence.
  3. Be mindful of your words. This includes body language and tone of voice as much (maybe more) than what you say. A good leader always inspires a sense of calm.
  4. Be mindful of social media. Remember that when dealing with a crisis, while you’re carefully assessing the situation and deciding how to proceed, your situation might already be out there on Facebook, Twitter and more – very likely lacking important facts and releasing information better kept confidential.
  5. Know your team. Refer to #2. When you know your people and their specific strengths, you have confidence in how to move forward.
  6. Don’t forget humor. Smiles and laughter can often ease the burden of grief, fear and difficulty.
  7. Get some sleep. While not always possible, taking a break and recharging your batteries are essential to making good decisions and providing sound leadership.
  8. Have someone take good notes. On-going access to accurate information is critical to evaluating a situation and taking appropriate steps to dealing with it.
  9. Get help from the community around you. Col. LaBarge emphasized how, after Bonacasa’s and Lemm’s deaths, the public rallied around the 105th and publicly demonstrated their support of the fallen heroes and their families. This, more than anything, made an unbearable situation somewhat easier to endure.


Col. LaBarge thanked his team and the community for the lessons of leadership he has learned as Commander of the 105th. The loss of the three servicemen “taught me to endure,” he said, “and for that, I am eternally grateful.”