Sergeant Spencer Stone is one of three Americans who helped foil a terrorist attack on a French train on August 21, 2015.  Since then, these overnight heroes have been greeted with opportunities of instant fame that few can imagine.  Though they have dedicated people around them, it’s difficult managing through that level of exposure, so quickly.

Recently, at the National Summit on Strategic Communications Summit in DC, I moderated a panel with Staff Sergeant Stone, U.S. Air Force, Lt. Col Glen Roberts, Director, Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office, U.S. Air Force and Ray Kerins, SVP of Communications and Government Relations for Bayer.  We discussed what really matters in life, how to put fame in perspective and focused on the lessons we can all learn from what Sgt. Stone and his two buddies endured.

Here are a few insights that are striking to me due to their powerful simplicity.


Our core values matter — Sgt. Stone said that “I always told myself what I would do in a situation like that”. He went on to say that his decision to rush an attacker holding a gun and knives was simple.  “It was how my Mom raised me”.  The lesson in here is that if our values are strong and clear, doing the right thing every day of our lives is a no brainer.  We don’t over think it.

The right actions matter in a crisis – Ray Kerins said, “Will we run and hide or do the right thing?  Sgt. Stone took action.  As corporations we need to think about how we take action in the face of a crisis.”

I mentioned that a lot of people on the train chose not to get up, but Sgt. Stone and his two friends did.  It’s the same inside corporations.  When a crisis hits, who stands up first?

Listen to people you trust not yes men – Sgt. Stone said that he surrounds himself with people he can trust, like his family and Lt. Col Glen Roberts and not people who tell him what he wants to hear.

True humility is life-long, not episodic – Sgt. Stone said “At the end of the day, I could have walked away from this with no one knowing about it, and I’d be fine with it.”

If you are humble, you are all of the time.  And it makes life a lot easier, since you just don’t care about all of the hype.

Leadership is a team sport — Lt. Col. Glen Roberts said that “leadership is extremely important and it’s a team sport.”

We do need each other to stay strong, do the right thing and stay focused.

Maintaining your core values – Sgt. Stone said “keep your integrity and honor. Treat people right.” I would add in one word…..”everyday”.

Want to see a recap of this year’s event? Check out our Storify!