With Martin G. Moore

Episode #204

The Big Leadership Moments: When real leaders step up

Adventurer and TV personality, Bear Grylls, (protagonist of the docuseries, Man Vs. Wild) said in an interview, “You have to come alive in the big moments… When it’s NOT a big moment, you don’t need to be front and centre, but when it’s a big moment – BE THERE!

That’s pretty powerful. Over the years, I’ve found it to be a defining characteristic of the best leaders I’ve seen. That’s when all the talk stops, and you get to see what people are really made of. Because you won’t see their true character until the big moment arrives.

We see examples in every area of life where some people step up in the big moments, while most people fade into the background, hoping not to be noticed.

The good news is that, wherever you are today, this is something you can learn… and it will really differentiate you as a strong leader, in whatever context you operate in!

Generate Your Free
Personalized Leadership Development Podcast Playlist

As a leader, it’s essential to constantly develop and improve your leadership skills to stay ahead of the game.

That’s why I’ve created a 3-question quiz that’ll give you a free personalized podcast playlist tailored to where you are right now in your leadership career!

Take the 30-second quiz now to get your on-the-go playlist 👇

Take The QuizTake The Quiz


Episode #204 The Big Leadership Moments: When real leaders step up

Recently, I listened to an episode of the podcast, The Diary of a CEO. The host, Steven Bartlett, is an excellent interviewer, and his guest on this occasion was the British adventurer Bear Grylls. There are a number of really interesting things that struck me about the interview – not least of which was the genuine humility that Grylls possesses.

He made one comment about leadership that hit me like a pie in the face. He said, “You have to come alive in the big moments. When it’s not a big moment, you don’t need to be front and center, but when it’s a big moment, be there.” Now, that’s pretty powerful. And over the years I’ve found it to be a defining characteristic of the best leaders I’ve seen. That’s when all the talk stops and you get to see what people are really made of, because interestingly, you won’t see their true character until the big moment arrives.

We see examples in every area of life where some people step up in the big moments while most people fade into the background, hoping not to be noticed. The good news is that wherever you are today, this is something you can learn, and it will really differentiate you as a strong leader in whatever context you’re operating in at the moment.

It’s really worth listening to Bartlett’s podcast episode – it’s an easy listen, and it covers a lot of ground. But more than anything else, it looks at resilience from a slightly different angle.


Bear Grylls is best known as an adventurer, an author, and a TV personality. He came to prominence in the mid-2000s with his television show, Man vs Wild. If you haven’t seen it, it’s based around the concept of Bear Grylls being dropped into an incredibly inhospitable environment and having to find his way out using his survival skills. For example, in one episode, he is parachuted into the Moab desert in Utah with temperatures of over 110 degrees (45 degrees Celsius). Then he has to find his way out with only a knife, a canteen and a flint – and please spare a thought for his camera crew who do everything that Grylls does, but they do it while carrying an extra 20 or 30 pounds of equipment.

Now, Grylls says there’s nothing particularly special about him except his tenacity. He was a member of the British SAS, which is the equivalent of the US Navy SEALS in terms of sheer toughness and the ability to perform in the most hostile environments. But Grylls said he only just scraped through the selection process. What he says about it though, is incredibly interesting, and it’s good news for all of us. He said the selection process isn’t a filtering of talent. It’s a filtering of heart and spirit – and we can all have that. He says it’s about walking through the door of failure time and time again, and getting back up.

Another philosophy that he shares, which I really like, is that real confidence is quiet. It’s not flashy and loud, but it comes into play just at the right moment. I also love his adherence to the concept of do your best rather than be your best. So many people seem to be absorbed by this concept of being the very best version of themselves – whatever that means.

The concept of doing your best in any given situation is incredibly powerful. You don’t need to be a star, a hero, or a world-beater. You just have to be prepared to do your best – a subtle, but really important distinction. This is how you separate yourself. As Bear Grylls says, “You can do anything for another 10 seconds, but will you?” It hurts, but afterwards, just knowing that you have it in you is an awesome feeling. And if you practice this enough, you’ll begin to seek out those opportunities to test yourself. When everyone else is complaining and giving up, that’s the time for you to give more.

This leads into one of the concepts that I’ve mentioned a few times in the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. When times are the toughest, that’s when really successful people love it the most. Because they know that that’s when the other people give up and turn around. The ability to push through the toughest obstacles is a differentiator in leadership, in career, and in life.

The ‘Never Say Die’ principle is one of the reasons I used to love my early morning runs through the dark, cold streets of Canberra. No one was awake, there was just complete quiet and darkness as we ran to the forest for a 10 km trail run. Once we got to the forest, the only obstacles we had were the massive webs that had been woven across the trails the night before by spiders as big as your hand.

Those were the days. Before most people’s alarm clocks went off, we’d managed to do something that most people simply won’t do. That brings an enormous amount of confidence and builds incredible resilience. I have to say, I don’t remember many of the runs I did on postcard-perfect days around Sydney Harbor. But I remember every minute of the freezing winter runs in torrential rain, in the dark forests of Canberra – because that is where character is forged.

Learn how to build your resilience through pragmatic optimism with Episode #107: Resilience, Faith, and Optimism


In the big moments, many people will withdraw into their own fear, unable to move forward. Their decision-making capability, which might be fine in non-stressful situations, becomes almost inoperative. They wait for someone else to step in and lead them through.

This is where you see real leaders emerge. They’re the ones who say, “Give it to me. I’ll step into the breach. I’m prepared to take this on and own it. I want to take on the burden of leading everyone else through it.” It’s so interesting to see how leaders around you step up, and it’s not always the leader who has the designated title.

You see it on the sporting fields all the time. In a team where something goes wrong or you’re down on the scoreboard in a critical moment, a weak leader looks to the team for answers… and the non-leaders on the team just bow their heads in defeat and despair. But the real leaders rally the team around them. They don’t shy away from the cold, hard facts of the situation they’re in. They just take responsibility for finding a way to get through it. This leader is not necessarily the team captain – it’s often just the person with the most passion, the greatest will to win, the one who’s determined to do their best and not leave one ounce of effort on the field.

In the big moments, these people are the natural leaders who others gravitate towards. Now I say natural, but remember it’s not about talent or some innate attribute that you may have been born with. It’s about the leaders with the heart and spirit to keep going. Those who know that you can do anything for another 10 seconds, who have been through this situation before and know that the only thing they will regret is the feeling of not having given it their all.

In contrast, look at the weak leaders. They subscribe to the ‘human shield’ philosophy: weak leaders find safety in numbers. They’ll happily surround themselves with people who can share their burden,  and they’re happy to put their people at risk to protect themselves and make themselves feel more comfortable.

When it’s not a big moment, you don’t need to be front and center. But when it’s a big moment, be there.


There are a couple of examples that, for me, typify this ability to be there as a leader in the big moments.

Australian gun legislation in the wake of a mass-shooting

After the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, where 35 people were killed by a lone gunman, the then-Prime Minister, John Howard, worked with the respective state governments to bring in gun control legislation. He enacted a huge buyback scheme for guns that were currently in circulation, which would become illegal under the new laws.

There was significant opposition to this process, particularly in Queensland – which was probably the most conservative state at the time. The premier of Queensland was Rob Borbidge, who knew that his support for the gun control legislation was effectively political suicide. It was in direct opposition to the core policy of his own party, but he managed to shepherd the legislation through all the same. This was a big moment.

Now, I don’t know Rob Borbidge personally, but what I do know is that it’s an extraordinarily rare politician who will put their self-interest behind the desire to do the right thing. Borbidge knew how many lives would be saved in the decades to come if he could get the legislation through the Queensland State Parliament.

It would have been so much easier to put such a hot issue in the too-hard basket, but he didn’t – which may be one reason why he was never reelected. He served only one term as Premier. In hindsight, most people – regardless of their view at the time – will admit that the anti-gun legislation was a good thing. And it wouldn’t have happened at all if Borbidge hadn’t stepped up as a leader in that big moment.

Leading Your CEO Mentor

I have one more story to share that is much closer to home for me – the leadership that my business partner and daughter, Emma Green, demonstrates every day. For those who don’t know, Emma runs Your CEO Mentor. She hasn’t had to handle any really big, highly-public life-or-death issues… yet. But I know that when those big moments come, she’s going to be up to the challenge.

Every day I see her making decisions, taking risks, putting her personal comfort and self-interest aside to do what’s right. She’s highly accountable and always does her best. In the big moments of building our business so far, she’s been there. Even though she doesn’t yet have the years of leadership experience that I’ve been so fortunate to acquire, she comes alive in the big moments. She just steps up and says, “Dad, I’ve got this,” even though it would be so much easier to just throw it to me to sort out. That’s why she’s going to be a leader that everyone loves to follow.


As Bear Grylls says, this is not about talent. It’s about heart and spirit, and anyone can have that. These steps are designed to lead you to that place.

1. Step into your accountability 

I worked out very early in my career that stepping strongly into my accountability was a really good thing. As a young software developer, I made a mistake that brought the backend financial systems of the bank I worked for to its knees for about 12 hours. They weren’t customer-facing systems. So it was more just an inconvenience for the bank CFO and the finance department. But I owned my mistake. It was a big moment when many of the more experienced leaders and in particular, my bosses were reluctant to own the problem.

The outcome for me personally, was superb. The finance leaders – my internal customers – could see that I had the willingness to step up, that I wasn’t afraid of the consequences and that they could rely on me to own my mistakes and fix them. The result? Well, the financial controller took me to lunch to thank me for all my hard work. It was an entirely positive outcome.

Stepping into your accountability every day will give you the confidence for those big moments. 

2. Develop a willingness to take on personal risk

I managed to develop a mindset that convinced me, rightly or wrongly, that if I always did the right thing, I’d be rewarded for it. Perhaps that’s a naïve notion, but it did help me to develop a really healthy relationship with personal risk. I figured that no job was worth my integrity, and if it came down to it, I’d happily move on from a company that didn’t value me.

At times, I was almost cavalier about it – which may not have been that smart. More than once, I’d draw the line in the sand for my boss where I’d say, “If this is the way you want things done, I get it, and it’s your prerogative. But for me, it’s a show stopper. So I’ll be happy to go off and work for someone else, and you can get someone who’s happy to operate that way.” 

There is an amazing feeling of power when you don’t fear the consequences of stepping into big moments.

3. Build your desire to give strength to others 

Some of my most satisfying leadership moments have been where I was able to provide strength and direction for other people. Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about: everyone is standing around waiting for someone to take control. And you are the one who does.

Not everyone is there in the big moments, but everyone appreciates the person who is.

4. Embrace the drive to prove yourself in the toughest situations 

It’s important to know that you’re capable of handling the stresses and demands of leadership at the highest level. You’ll never be able to develop this confidence unless you’re willing to test yourself regularly. Not all situations are life and death, obviously, but there are plenty of big moments in the day-to-day that you can look for.

Handling these the right way, builds your resilience and confidence, and gives you a feeling of calmness when you’re faced with any challenge. 

5. Have the heart and the tenacity to risk failure

There are literally thousands of clichés about failure being an essential ingredient of your eventual success. We know intellectually that many of them are true, but it’s strange how few people actually embrace potential failure. Stepping up in those big moments requires a high tolerance for potential failure. But if you practice this like anything else, you’ll develop the deep confidence that comes from knowing it will all be okay.

Without risk, there is no reward. The timid souls around you will be looking for comfort, and they’ll try to find safety in numbers. You see this in people, irrespective of their title and their position – but not you.

You have to be happy to put it on the line. 

There’s no substitute for being a leader who shows up in the big moments and it all starts with a decision – it’s that simple. Make a decision that this is the type of leader you want to be, then commit to those few simple steps.

Like many things in leadership, if you say it fast enough, it sounds easy. These characteristics are really difficult to develop because they go against the grain of some of our most compelling human instincts. But if you do force yourself into that space, I can almost guarantee that you will never regret it.


  • Ep. #107: Resilience, Faith, and Optimism – Listen Here

  • Ep. #125: Can You Coach Character? – Listen Here

  • Join the Crush Your Career Challenge 2022 – Here


  • Explore other podcast episodes – Here

  • Take our FREE Level Up Leadership Masterclass – Start Now

  • Leadership Beyond the Theory – Learn More


Here’s how you can make a difference:

  • Subscribe to the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast

  • Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts

  • Repost this episode to your social media

  • Share your favourite episodes with your leadership network

  • Tag us in your next post and use the hashtag #nobsleadership