(866) 488-9228
Get High Performance
Tips In Your Inbox

How to Build a Winning, High Performance Culture – New Chapter in ‘Leadership in Dangerous Situations’

Leadership is Crucial in Dangerous Contexts

Professionals working in dangerous industries — such as the armed forces and emergency services — face psychological, social, and physical challenges special to leading in high-stakes contexts. The newly released Leadership in Dangerous Situations, Second Edition: A Handbook for the Armed Forces, Emergency Services and First Responders addresses these challenges in a timely guide for anyone operating in unpredictable environments.

HigherEchelon SVP Contributes Chapter on Building High Performance Cultures

HigherEchelon SVP of Human Capital Services Donnie Horner, Ph.D. co-contributed a chapter detailing what it takes to build a winning, high perfomance culture in such dangerous contexts in the compilation, which is edited by Patrick D. Sweeney, Michael D. Matthews, Paul B. Lester, Sean T. Hannah, and Brian J. Reed.

Book Overview

This guide which, for years, has prepared military, emergency, and first responders to face a range of challenges has been updated. The author team, which includes scholars and practitioners, has integrated current research findings, incorporated topics not covered in the prior edition and has created a reference work relevant to leaders at all levels (entry, mid, and senior) in organizations that operate in dangerous contexts.

Leadership in Dangerous Situations, Second Edition includes nine new chapters that address:

  • Character development
  • Ethical decision-making and action
  • Leading in uncertain times
  • Empowering initiative
  • Leading taskforces and cross-functional teams
  • Operating in complex social and political environments
  • Tactical and operational decision-making and planning
  • Red teaming
  • Incident command

Creating a High Performance Culture

Horner and colleagues contributed Chapter 16: Creating a High Performance Culture for Organizations Working in Dangerous Situatons based on the latest in scientifically informed best practices.

“It was a pleasure to collaborate with chapter co-authors Luann Pannell, Dennis Yates, and Ruben Lopez, and book editor Pat Sweeney,” Horner said. “They bring unique perspectives to the business of building a winning team and high performance culture.

In our chapter, we discuss methods for creating a high performance culture for organizations working in dangerous situations and in extremis environments — and, for that matter, in any situation and any environment. Acknowledging that ‘culture’ is an often used but misunderstood term, we review what culture is and what it does.

We examine how human high performance is foundational to high performing organizations, and outline the characteristics of high performing cultures. Based on scientifically derived and established best practices, the chapter explains how leaders go about the process of creating a high performance culture and how, once established, high performance is transmitted and maintained in an organization.

The chapter serves as a reference tool for the reader, offering guidance and checklists as leaders go about the process of creating a high performance culture in their organizations. I remain humbled to have been a part of this project.”

Chapter Authors: 

Donald H. Horner, Jr., Ph.D.
Senior Vice President for Human Capital Services, HigherEchelon, Inc.
Jacksonville, FL

Luann P. Pannell, Ph.D.
Director, Police Training and Education, Los Angeles Police Department
Los Angeles, CA

Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Dennis W. Yates
Project Manager, Centrus Energy Corporation
Oak Ridge, TN

Ruben Lopez, Lieutenant
Special Weapons and Tactics, Metropolitan Division, Los Angeles Police Department
Los Angeles, CA

More Information

For more information about the book, authors, and where to order, please visit this USNI.org page.


“Developing leaders at all levels who hunger for more understanding about their roles and responsibilities will find themselves fascinated by this compilation. I wish I had it when I was progressing through my career.”

—Jim Schwartz, a former Fire Chief at the Pentagon on 9/11, Arlington Virginia FD

Culture Change is Possible with the Right Approach

Interested in diagnosing and changing your company’s culture? Want guidance from professionals who have designed and implemented culture change among groups, teams, organizations, and institutions? Want to have the change “stick” so that it lasts long after you are gone?

We know how successful culture change is done. From Fortune 500 companies to major public sector organizations, we have a robust and proven record of guiding leaders and teams through transformational human capital and technology changes for sustained high performance.

Dr. Horner and the HigherEchelon Human Capital Services team apply the very latest in scientifically informed best practices to help leaders institute transformational change and shape culture to meet the desired vision.

Learn more about how we assess culture and bring longterm strategic goals into alignment with needed culture change.

What is CULTURE anyway? Read Dr. Horner’s article: You Can’t Change ‘Culture’ Until You Understand It

Be Intentional About Culture

Every organization has a culture — not every leader is intentional about building a great one that achieves the strategic mission. You must take action to steer your ship or the unintended culture of your organization will steer it to a potentially undesirable destination.

You have a vision for the culture you want, but sometimes it takes significant changes to get there. HigherEchelon comes alongside you as a trusted partner to diagnose your culture and support your strategy to guide your team through needed changes. Ultimately, we help you choose your destination and course-correct to get there by:

  • Generating valid data to reveal and eliminate blind spots and inform decisions through process interviews, surveys, and focus groups
  • Identifying trends and themes that may be so entrenched they have become invisible to you
  • Crafting a thorough plan to address what needs to be addressed
  • Executing the plan consistent with sound science and best practices
  • Measuring progress towards success indicators

High Performance Cultures are Trainable

Because human performance is regulated through cognitive, emotional, motivational, and decision-based processes, performers must invest in the development of skills such as mindfulness, threat response control, mindset discipline, energy management, attention control, and visualization to build out the mental and emotional foundation that enables elite performance.

The results often mean improved intangibles such as perceptions of individual or organizational credibility, competence, trustworthiness, and confidence. And, of course, results positively affect measurable tangibles, including better performance, customer satisfaction, closed sales, increased revenue, and improved retention – the metrics that show-up on everything from sports scoreboards to sales leaderboards.

Read how we track and measure training outcomes through assessments and diagnostics

Our human capital services Leaders Guide Teams to consistent performance and competitive advantages

HigherEchelon’s unique approach to training combines principles from Sport and Performance Psychology, Organizational Behavior, and Industrial and Organizational Psychology to create experiential learning opportunities that equip individuals and teams with skills they can immediately leverage to improve performance, increase productivity, manage stress, and maintain wellbeing.

Through consistent development and execution of acquired skill sets, individuals and teams can perform at the upper range of their potential, with results such as increased working memory capacity, better coherence between the sub-systems of the autonomic nervous system (enabling the performer to maintain composure and focus during high pressure situations), improved critical thinking, swifter reactions, and automatic performance that previously required mental energy.

Read a case study detailing our work with a Fortune 500 Medical Technology firm’s sales team

Client Review ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“In medical sales, like sports, the mental game is essential. HigherEchelon’s performance-based approach to training had a very positive impact to my sales team’s performance. We overcame so much doubt, rejection, and negativity to build trust, lasting relationships, and improve our overall culture, and finished with our best year ever.”

– General Manager, Stryker

We help your team reach high performance

Get in touch today so we can schedule step one: Listening to YOU.

Call us at 866-488-9228 or fill out this form to get started.

Read our whitepaper about our approach to developing high performance in portfolio companies