Crisis Leadership

Leadership in a Crisis – How To Be a Leader
The following is adapted from a WSJ column by Bill George, author of ‘True North’ and former CEO of Medtronic. Here are seven lessons for leaders charged with leading their organizations through a crisis: Lesson 1: Leaders must face reality. Reality starts with the person in charge. Leaders need to look themselves in the mirror and recognize their role in creating the problems. Then they should gather their teams together and gain agreement about the root causes. Widespread recognition of reality is the crucial step before problems can be solved. Attempting to find short-term fixes that address the symptoms of the crisis only ensures the organization will wind up back in the same predicament. In order to understand the real reasons for the crisis, everyone on the leadership team must be willing to tell the whole truth. Leaders can‟t solve problems if they don‟t acknowledge their existence. Lesson 2: No matter how bad things are, they will get worse. Faced with bad news, many leaders cannot believe that things could really be so grim. Consequently, they try to convince the bearers of bad news that things aren‟t so bad, and swift action can make problems go away. This causes leaders to undershoot the mark in terms of corrective actions. As a consequence, they wind up taking a series of steps, none of which is powerful enough to correct the downward spiral. It is far better for leaders to anticipate the worst and get out in front of it. If they restructure their cost base for the worst case, they can get their organization healthy for the turnaround when it comes and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Lesson 3: Build a mountain of cash, and get to the highest hill. In good times leaders worry more about earnings per share and revenue growth than they do about their balance sheets. In a crisis, cash is king. Forget about earnings-per-share and all those stock market measures. The question is, “Does your organization have sufficient cash to survive the direst circumstances?” Lesson 4: Get the world off your shoulders. In a crisis, many leaders act like Atlas, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. They go into isolation, and think they can solve the problem themselves. In reality, leaders must have the help of all their people to devise solutions and to implement them. This means bringing people into their confidence, asking them for help and ideas, and gaining their commitment to painful corrective actions. Lesson 5: Before asking others to sacrifice, first volunteer yourself. If there are sacrifices to be made – and there will be – then the leaders should step up and make the greatest sacrifices themselves. Everyone is watching to see what the leaders do. Will they stay true to their values? Will they bow to external pressures, or confront the crisis in a straight-forward manner? Will they be seduced by short-term rewards, or will they make near-term sacrifices in order to fix the long-term situation? Lesson 6: Never waste a good crisis. When things are going well, people resist major changes or try to get by with minor adaptations. A crisis provides the leader with the

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with new products or services to gain market share. But „business as usual‟ never returns because markets are irrevocably changed. Many people look at a crisis as something to get through. instead of waiting and reacting to the changes as they take place? Adapted 11/11/11 from: © 2011 The Wall Street Journal. Why not create the changes that move the market in your favour. Lesson 7: Be aggressive in the marketplace. until they can go back to business as usual.platform to get things done that were required anyway and offers the sense of urgency to accelerate their implementation. This may sound counter-intuitive.com/management/developing-a-leadership-style/how-to-lead-in-a-crisis/ 2 . but a crisis offers the best opportunity to change the game in your favour. Dow Jones & Company http://guides.wsj.

2. That he had answers . Many leaders face crises. 3. Everyone recognized that Mayor Giuliani was leading a crisis situation. Churchill had spoken directly and bluntly about the threat England faced with the Nazi onslaught. 3 .was very calming. The world. men will still say. Keep reminding people of the tremendous and unprecedented opportunity that current circumstances create. Change Management Lesson #3: Raise the bar – challenge people to act out of a higher calling of service. D. and create a new model and set of procedures that will function more efficiently in the service of your mission in the future.and the country .after the terrorist attacks of September 11. As the leader.or was able to say plainly what he did not know . „This was their finest hour‟. Change Management Lesson #2: Be visible and calm. if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years. but also said. Psy. it is still be possible (and even critically necessary) to challenge people to remember what your organization‟s overall mission is. but also challenge them to be part of creating the answers to important questions. in a way. your organization needs you become a moral compass and help people stay focused on matters greater than self-interest during crisis or radical change. a transition toward a new tomorrow. but fewer realized that he approached the situation as a change management challenge.Crisis Leadership By Rudy Giuliani Change Management Lessons of Rudy Giuliani. leaders with foresight become the heralds of necessary changes and instil a sense of urgency in order to bring about a better future. so they can help to create new solutions and answers for the future. and not just our country. When you lead a change effort. watched with grateful admiration as Mayor Rudy Giuliani of the City of New York took on his shoulders the job of rallying the city . Creativity is born of chaos.” For your organization. When he had to say he did not know something. But in any well-founded change initiative. imposed by external circumstances. Schuler. and how it serves the needs of others. Mayor Giuliani‟s post-9/11 actions make a useful case study for any change leader. he would say when he would have the answers or point people toward the right resource to get the answer. 2001. Mayor Giuliani was omnipresent in the way that he needed to be – prioritizing his time and effort well to maximum effect for his constituencies. Either way. “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties. This task was easier for Mayor Giuliani. Post 9/11 By A. and so bear ourselves that. 1. J. By preparing the city for its new. he transformed crisis into a temporary trauma. unexpected future. Or sometimes. armed with critical information. because the people were ready for a higher calling because of the magnitude of what had occurred. Change Management Lesson #1: Articulate a positive vision for what you foresee as the future. point out the opportunities to fix a system that is essentially broken. Mayor Giuliani stated he borrowed his basic message from Winston Churchill‟s „Finest Hour‟ speech. which require a rallying of people. even if it all seems like chaos. supply your people with critical information.

” Repetition of the core message is critical during an unfolding change programme. Though Rudy did not have to deal with strong oppositional elements. but applying these lessons to leading change or to organizational crises will go a long way toward making any leader successful. Coke is the real thing. and if you do. you will come back in a way that reinforces your core message. For more tips and insights into this and other leadership skills. As the change leader. Even when you feel harried and tired. you‟re not ready to initiate a change. clear terms. when necessary. . Following 9/11. did Mayor Giuliani ever miss any opportunity at any point to highlight the contributions of others? He did that constantly. Coke is the real thing. . 6. and when questions became inappropriate – such as questions about what grieving families might have said to Mayor Giuliani in private conversations – Mayor Giuliani set limits.as long as they behave constructively. but just saturates the market with its image and one core message: “Coke is the real thing. you may have to. because almost whatever they ask or say. If at the end of the day some choose to find a place to work outside the agency. He made critical decisions about traffic into and out of the city as well.even as he answered or partially answered the question. be sure to end your comments and interactions with some praise. because people will need to see positive. be sure to subscribe to my FREE e-Newsletter for exclusive. When you stay on message and become the moral compass for the group. Change Management Lesson #6: Don’t cloud the message! Whenever Rudy was asked a question that really did not relate to what he saw as the one. Consider sending some version of this message: you recognize that not everyone will agree with what is unfolding. invite and hope that everyone will rise to the occasion. but also create a graceful exit path for those who may want to leave . Don‟t underestimate the power of words of simple positive recognition. human models of how to respond to the circumstances. Publicly challenge. Plan out your core message of not more than three simply stated priorities at the beginning of the process. Change Management Lesson #5: Lavish public praise on those who choose to make positive contributions. Sometimes people will feel like they‟re playing handball and you‟re the wall. place future directions in stark. I call this the „Coca Cola‟ strategy. Then make sure everyone is „singing from the same hymnal‟ when it comes to pursuing these goals. Change Management Lesson #4: Set clear limits with compassion – and give people a clear choice (‘iron hand in a velvet glove’). Change management is difficult and creates the most complex leadership challenges. Coke does not have any complex slogan with its product. let them know that you expect professionalism and are even willing to help them find something else if they remain helpful. praise becomes your most powerful weapon in creating and maintaining order and success. . two or three (not more!) critical issues at stake. you have to model that and constantly highlight other models as well – because that is critical in how people will learn and adjust. Mayor Giuliani has always been able to scold a reporter. insightful and original monthly content! Good luck! 4 . from the beginning and right on through.4. If you can‟t do this. in spite of any potential resistance from already suffering business interests. but the mission is set and has been defined. he respectfully reminded everyone of what the higher stakes were and what the real issues were . 5. even in an organizational culture that may initially interpret such actions cynically. . The moral here is stay on message.

J.html 5 . Schuler Solutions http://www.html Free Reprintable Articles by Schuler: http://www.com/change_leadership_lessons_of_r. D.schulersolutions..com/free_articles. Psy.schulersolutions. Schuler.Adapted 31/01/12 from: © 2002 A.

and that‟s not trivial. But you have no proof. Making a change is all about managing risk. because on a very human but seldom articulated level. 3. someone who uses the imagination to create new possibilities that do not currently exist. those who have taught us. J. Taking that leap of faith is risky. as rational as that new way may seem to you. to form emotional bonds of loyalty. A little good diplomacy at the outset can stave off a lot of resistance. 4. It‟s great to be a visionary. I believe. most people don‟t operate that way. This is a fear people will seldom admit. Psy. The power of the human fight-or-flight response can be activated to fight for change. If you are making the case for change. Never underestimate the power of observational learning. feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction. but communicating a vision is not enough. they get our attention. At the very least. and some people will feel that they won‟t be able to make 6 . all those emotional connections to those who taught your audience the old way . this can mean setting up effective pilot programs that model a change and work out the kinks before taking your innovation „on the road‟. your audience will feel asked to betray their former mentors (whether those people remain in the organization or not). be sure to set out in stark. change in organizations necessitates changes in skills. Making a change requires a kind of leap of faith: you decide to move in the direction of the unknown on the promise that something will be better for you. the emotional mind (which is typically most decisive) can begin to grapple with the prospect of change. At the very least. you should make statements that honour the work and contributions of those who brought such success to the organization in the past. Get some people on board with your idea. changing people‟s objections from the “It can‟t be done!” variety to the “How can we get it done?” category. The risk of change is seen as greater than the risk of standing still. as you craft your change message. People feel connected to other people who are identified with the old way.Overcoming Resistance to Change Top Ten Reasons for Change Resistance By A. Well. seeing is believing. and so we are hard wired. you will be setting yourself up against all that hard wiring. People have no role models for the new activity. and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly. Loyalty certainly helped our ancestors hunt antelope and defend against the aggressions of hostile tribes. For most people. Less rhetoric and more demonstration can go a long way toward overcoming resistance. Top Ten Reasons People Resist Change: 1. those with whom we are familiar – even at times to our own detriment. People fear they lack the competence to change. and then when the rational mind is engaged. so that you or they can demonstrate how the new way can work. 2. We are a social species. you won‟t be nearly as effective in moving people to action. If you see yourself as a change agent. because we in the West pay attention to numbers. Use numbers whenever you can. but that begins with the perception of risk. Operationally. If you ask people in an organization to do things in a new way. unseen promises of reward. Schuler. truthful terms why you believe the risk situation favours change. you probably are something of a dreamer. But if you only sell your idea of change based on idealistic. We become and like to remain connected to those we know. generally speaking. But sometimes. D.

People fear hidden agendas among would-be reformers. They don‟t think they. it can be easy to put off your personal health improvement project (until your first heart attack or cancer scare. 5. People have a healthy scepticism and want to be sure new ideas are sound. and when. you can minimize the initial fear of a lack of personal competence for change by showing how people will be brought to competence throughout the change process. 7. or even eliminate potential opposition through later stages of change. If you seek to promote change in an organization. If. throughout the change process. and that‟s why part of moving people toward change requires you to be an effective motivator. Not all are to be trusted. and be patient enough to let people vent (without getting too caught up in attending to unproductive negativity). and pay attention.. presenting the rationale and plan for change. In this way. Then. when suddenly the risks of standing still seem greater than the risks of change!). for an individual or for an organization. typically staged from the broad to the specific. when management faced a lingering and inextinguishable suspicion in some quarters that the 7 . 6. not only can you expect to encounter resentment for upsetting the established order and for thinking you know better than everyone else. and fear can produce its own fatigue. can do it. you believe you should quit smoking. Even more. and with understanding for people‟s complaints. but you‟ve got ten projects going and four kids to keep up with. The hard part is that some of them may be right. Let‟s face it. By this I mean that initial events should be town-hall type information events. People feel overloaded and overwhelmed. I saw this in a recent change management project for which I consulted. but you may also be suspected of wanted to increase your own power. Healthy sceptics perform an important social function: to vet the change idea or process so that it can be improved upon along the road to becoming reality. best form at the outset. But in many cases. their fears will be unfounded.the transition very well. When you‟re introducing a change effort. from whom. Then you have to deliver. or for thinking you have another agenda to follow shortly. because some percentage of what they have to say will prompt genuine improvements to your change idea (even if some of the criticism you will hear will be based more on fear and anger than substance). etc. you‟re activating people‟s fears. But that‟s not enough. When you reemphasize the risk scenario. as a group. and also be very generous and continuously attentive with praise. reformers can be a motley lot. a successful change campaign includes effective new training programs. Fatigue can really kill a change effort. as individuals. You‟ve got to motivate and praise accomplishments as well. people may resist change just because they are tired and overwhelmed. share a blemished past. some of the worst atrocities modern history has known were begun by earnest people who really believed they knew what was best for everyone else. And so. for example. the basic fight-or-flight response we all possess. be aware of fatigue as a factor in keeping people from moving forward. If an organization has been through a lot of upheaval. Perhaps even more frightening. even if they are telling you they believe in the wisdom of your idea. you can hardly blame those you might seek to move toward change for mistrusting your motives. Reformers. training programs must be implemented and evaluated over time. perhaps at precisely the time when more radical change is most needed! That‟s when you need to do two things: re-emphasize the risk scenario that forms the rationale for change (as in my cancer scare example). outlining future communications channels for questions. and specifying how people will learn the specifics of what will be required of them. So listen to your sceptics. specifying the next steps. It‟s important to remember that few worthwhile changes are conceived in their final.

etc. and felt answerable to less well trained people in the insurance companies to approve treatments the doctors felt were necessary. most likely. but also. Real change reshuffles the deck a bit. and in some cases correctly. But we all live in the real world. It was not the case. but the short answer for dealing with this problem is to do what you can to present the inevitability of the change given the risk landscape.whole affair was a prelude to far-reaching layoffs. and to minimize its force. What‟s the solution? Well. and lost the ability to do what they thought best for patients. People anticipate a loss of status or quality of life. but to point out how change can get right to a person‟s sense of identity. As a result. I‟ve never seen a real organizational change effort that did not result in some people choosing to leave the organization. and not for personal or factional advantage. the doctors felt they had lost control of their profession. as the structures of medical reimbursement in this country changed in favour of the insurance companies. The only answer is to help people see and understand the new rewards that may come with a new work process. There are various strategies for minimizing this. and let‟s face it – if there were no obstacles (read: people and their interests) aligned against change. the sense of self as a professional. or through indirect communication or rumour. and your genuine interest in the greater good of the organization. you‟d better be interested in change for the right reasons. acknowledging that change does have costs. or to see how their own underlying sense of mission and values can still be realized under the new way of operating. and sometimes that‟s best for all concerned. (hopefully) larger benefits. be aligned against change because they will clearly. When the organization 8 . Change does not have to be a zero sum game. people may feel that the intrinsic rewards that brought them to a particular line of work will be lost with the change. Having said that. And so. and may genuinely feel that the very things that attracted her to the work in the first place have been lost. quality of life. My point is not to take sides in that argument. it is deep and powerful. People feel the proposed change threatens their notions of themselves. Sometimes change on the job gets right to a person‟s sense of identity. view the change as being contrary to their interests. HMO‟s and managed care organizations. 9. in order to show your good faith. then be open about that and create an orderly process for outplacement and in-house retraining. And in some cases. with the proposed change. they may be absolutely right. will gain in status. and change can (and should) bring more advantage to more people than disadvantage. change leaders must be able to understand it and then address it. Medical professionals felt they had less say in the treatment of their patients. and for dealing with steadfast obstacles to change in the form of people and their interests. if you want to minimize and overcome resistance. Some people. Get as much information out there as fast as you can and create a process to allow everyone to move on and stay focused on the change effort. then special efforts to promote change would be unnecessary. but no amount of reason or reassurance sufficed to quell the fears of some people. When resistance springs from these identityrelated roots. Reshuffling the deck can bring winners – and losers. she may lose her sense of herself as a craftsperson. I saw this among many medical people and psychologists during my graduate training. job security. Avoid the drip-drip-drip of bad news coming out in stages. without reacting unduly to accusations and provocations. Some people will. 8. and some will likely lose a bit. and offer to help people to adjust. When a factory worker begins to do less with her hands and more with the monitoring of automated instruments. And you‟d better be as open with information and communication as you possibly can be. in part. And if your change project will imply reductions in workforce.

and in that case.. They just see that we‟re wrong. Schuler. Sometimes people are not being recalcitrant. or nasty. fill libraries. sometimes someone‟s (even – gasp! – my) idea of change is just not a good idea. Not all resistance is about emotion. Adapted 31/01/12 from: © 2003 A. looked at me sideways. and commented dryly.People genuinely believe that the proposed change is a bad idea. pedigreed wisdom at age twenty-two. but only half wrong. or muddle-headed. or foolish when they resist. or afraid. rational reservations or objections. and to assume arrogantly that we innovative. 10.changes.. “Things you don‟t know . I didn‟t know that!” Ricky. that this is the area would-be change agents understand least well. To win people‟s commitment for change. my boss. Schuler Solutions http://www. you must engage them on both a rational level and an emotional level.. “Oh. or even if we‟re right. secure as I was in the knowledge of my well earned. I‟ve emphasized the emotional side of the equation for this list because I find.J.com/resistance_to_change. it won‟t be to everyone‟s liking. in my experience. I‟ll never forget what a supervisor of mine said to be. it‟s important not to ignore when people have genuine. in spite of this list I‟ve assembled here. A word to the wise: we‟re just as fallible as anyone. We were in a meeting. it‟s best for everyone to be adult about it and move on.” The truth is. and I made the comment. during the year after I had graduated from college. And even if we‟re not all wrong.schulersolutions.html 9 . change agent types really do know best. Psy. But I‟m also mindful that a failure to listen to and respond to people‟s rational objections and beliefs is ultimately disrespectful to them. in response to some piece of information. D.

the oil tanker Exxon Valdez went aground in Alaska‟s Prince William Sound. when a container of Odwalla apple juice contaminated by the bacteria e coli resulted in the death of a child in 1996. and minimize the damage to the extent possible. and the shareholders will follow. adding flash pasteurization to ensure no future incidents could occur. Leading in a Crisis There are two rules to follow in a crisis. thousands of workers and volunteers were mobilized to mop up the oil. A crisis is the biggest test you will face. He held regular press conferences to ensure the public knew what was going on and how the company was responding. save the wildlife. This may feel counterintuitive. Rule number two is a corollary to the first: Be prepared to reframe and expand your level of responsibility. Instead he issued a flurry of press releases stating that the company was investigating the accident.” Rawl‟s reputation never recovered. William Reilly. then head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Why? Because the longterm reputation and goodwill of your organization are more important than any shortterm risk to shareholder value or your own job security. Eleven million tons of oil spilled onto pristine shoreline. 2) Lives and fortunes are at stake. In other words. they can respond out of a „protect ourselves‟ mentality. He paid out huge sums to the families affected by the tainted products. CEO Greg Stepensall stepped in right away and assumed personal responsibility. More than at any other time. The opportunity to quickly contain the spill was squandered. He recalled every Odwalla product. said Rawl‟s response was “a casebook example of how not to communicate to the public when your company messes up. Eventually. 10 . Several weeks passed before Rawl grudgingly announced that the company would take responsibility for the clean-up. especially when someone else is clearly culpable.Leadership in Times of Crisis This tool explains the skills of effective crisis leadership. For more than a year. This is a frightening feeling. Rule number one is this: Protect other people first – customers. as Exxon did in the Exxon Valdez disaster. In the immediate aftermath. In 1989. In contrast. To recap. Consider this well-known example. Hundreds of miles of coastline were fouled. leaders have a clear choice in how they frame their response to a crisis. Sales fell 90 percent but Odwalla survived with its reputation intact. as Odwalla did. But reframing and expanding your level of responsibility will help lead you out of the crisis. As the Exxon Valdez and Odwalla examples show. On the one hand. in a crisis: 1) Events are unfolding more quickly than you can imagine. Not your shareholders or yourself. 3) You feel a loss of control. you will feel a lack of control. Exxon‟s CEO Lawrence Rawl was slow to accept responsibility. employees and citizens. But Exxon‟s public image was left in tatters because its immediate response was too slow. It is inevitable at some point in your career you will face a situation that requires extraordinary courage under fire. Or leaders can think and act out of a larger ethical context. Protect the public and your customers. accept responsibility even if you‟re not at fault. Odwalla retooled its production lines. Public furore built and the company‟s reputation plunged. 4) You are frightened.

and conduct a massive awareness-building campaign. To Western eyes. Exxon‟s leaders had little control over the empathy scale. design strong anti-tampering packaging. In the Tylenol case. two dynamics take over: Trust and Empathy. It is estimated to have cost the company $2 billion. this seems odd.The Tylenol scare in 1986 is another case in point. It was clear when cyanide-laced containers of Tylenol were found on supermarket shelves that a pathological killer was responsible. assuming responsibility and taking corrective action is more important than safeguarding your job. When a crisis hits. The Trust/Empathy Matrix The empathy scale is governed largely by facts outside your control. but Johnson & Johnson emerged the stronger for it. This led the company to recall every Tylenol product. In the case of the Exxon Valdez tanker spill. which they messed up. Yet as the Trust/Empathy Matrix shows. Johnson & Johnson‟s executives could have focused on the criminal aspects and exhorted police to take responsibility for catching the perpetrator. it‟s also smart business.) But Johnson & Johnson‟s executives understood the need to immediately take responsibility for the safety of their consumers. managers are trained to accept personal responsibility for anything that goes wrong on their watch. 11 . there was little question that the captain was drunk and that Exxon. the company was rewarded. These dynamics are illustrated in the figure below. In Japanese corporate cultures. As a consequence. was at fault. We‟re amazed when a Japanese CEO resigns because of the incorrect action of a freighter captain or an accounting irregularity. But they did have control over the trust scale. he was caught within a matter of days. The bottom line is this: When a crisis hits. as his employer. (Indeed. Yet it chose to assume full responsibility. Johnson & Johnson was clearly not at fault. The security of the organization depends on it.

It‟s the only way I know how to be. Realists don‟t pretend a crisis will go away quickly. researchers had assumed men and women responded to a crisis with the same „fight or flight‟ response. suggests that women use a third strategy. In the best cases. they magnify the crisis through theatrical protestations of innocence in the face of ever-mounting evidence to the contrary. They develop a strategic focus and a plan. Rather than withhold information.” People feel a deep need to be protected. 12 . They don‟t try to put the best possible face on it.Crisis Management Styles Over the years I‟ve seen many leaders respond differently to crises. We call this the “heroic transfer phenomenon. How Men and Women Respond in a Time of Crisis Until recently. This is reciprocity on its most basic level: “I will follow you if you protect me. Andy Grove. they instil a clear chain of command. each with its strengths and weaknesses. is famous for telling his employees: “I‟m always scared of what our competition will do. That response. he made note of his fellow prisoners of war – and who survived and who did not under the terrible pressure. called „tend and befriend‟. They bark orders. People want to trust that their leaders will take care of them when the chips are down. The realist-survivor makes sure everyone is aware of what‟s going on. When stress mounts. it was the realists who survived intact. and enables people throughout the organization to communicate – both to employees and to the media. This style can be very effective if the leader does assume responsibility. The optimists were always having their hopes crushed. The biggest difference between the hero-protector and the realist-survivor is that the latter doesn‟t need to be the sole point person during the crisis. and honest communication. and they assume full responsibility to interact with the media. they go to work. 1) The Hero-Protector One style is the hero-protector. published in 2000. probably evolved because successful „tenders and befrienders‟ were more likely to see their offspring survive and pass on their mothers‟ genes. No. He divided people into two groups: optimists and realists. he shares it. But new research. the research shows that women are more prone than men to protect and nurture their families and turn to social networks for support. The realist-survivor trusts that if many people assume responsibility. the researchers said. Who made it? Not the optimists. the hero-protector emerges as a trusted and powerful symbol of the organization‟s integrity. Over time the psychological burden became too great. Leaders are symbols of protection. delegates decisions. In the worst cases. The realist-survivor doesn‟t sugar coat what‟s going on. The realist-survivor is another.” 2) The Realist-Survivor The hero-protector is one style of crisis manager. They gather data. In a crisis this type of leader naturally assumes a more decisive and autocratic role. And I‟ve noticed two different styles. and they look to their leaders to fill that need. then many people can be mobilized to act quickly. Certain people enjoy being perceived as hero-protectors. They want to act heroically and display the courage to stand up and fight on behalf of their followers. the former CEO of Intel. fair. They dispel panic through good. Instead.” When General Jim Stockdale was imprisoned in Hanoi.

you must advance change. cool leadership paid off in big games. After a string of defeats. On a fluke. Similarly. men tend to either respond angrily (fight) or by ignoring it (flight). he discovered that his „ego-less‟ approach was highly successful. take risks and accept responsibility for making change happen. he went to work in Canada. is proof of the importance of staying cool under fire. To do that. Opponents are okay. They follow the maxim: “When you fight. the heat shield deflects the ions in the atmosphere and diffuses their energy. How you respond to these kinds of tests – and whether you stay cool under fire – is a sign of whether you are genuinely capable of building a leadership culture. the former coach of NBA‟s Chicago Bulls and now of the L. He visited an Indian village near his home in South Dakota.” Jackson describes the long road he took to get to that point. Jackson got back to basketball. His calm. Charles Rice. He learned Zen Buddhism. When a conflict occurs. After eight years as a player. He says he was prepared to deal with the constant media pressure because he‟d learned “to take his ego out. The metaphor is apt. They are trained to make each decision and move on. he wound up as an assistant coach in Chicago. puts it this way: “Leadership is often about shaping a new way of life. He took up meditation. Gender blending is influencing how we manage crises. After this personal journey.A. He cites his studies of Buddhism as the turning point. it is vital that in a time of crisis you maintain your cool. leaders must act as heat shields for their organizations. while younger women are becoming more aggressive. 1) Projecting Cool Under Fire In his book Sacred Hoops.” Men and women seem to be modifying their coping strategies. Psychologist Carole Rayburn has found that younger men are doing more tending and befriending.” Leaders on the battlefield are trained to be cool under fire. They juggle one tough decision after another. unmatched by any other coach in professional basketball. His record of playoff victories and championship rings. How should I respond to this hostile e-mail? Should we close a plant? Should we terminate this manager? Should we cancel this program? Leaders experience these kinds of tough questions on a daily basis. fight in such a way that you don‟t make enemies. It also helped him manage the super-sized egos of professional basketball players. When a space vehicle re-enters the earth‟s atmosphere. An adviser to special operations teams working in the Middle East says: “Our people are trained to commit troops to their deaths. recounts how he learned how to deal with winning and losing under the eyes of millions of fans. leaders need to see themselves as heat shields. Phil Jackson. They can‟t ask for more data. When the head coach was fired. but once an enemy. Women seem more capable of acknowledging the conflict – thus taking the energy out of it – and maintaining good relationships. coaching semi-pro basketball teams. As Jackson‟s story illustrates. But metaphorically they do every day. 13 . always an enemy. In that environment. Lakers.” Most leaders don‟t face life-or-death decisions. too. he took time off to reconsider what he wanted to do with his life.I‟ve certainly observed this pattern in the workplace. 2) The Leader as a Heat Shield When a crisis hits. when his players incurred far fewer technical fouls than his opponents. the CEO of Barnett Bank. They can‟t waffle. Jackson was suddenly thrust into the top coaching job.

comfort employees by validating their concerns. c) Third. and act when you have a pretty good idea what‟s going on. learned that she was going to be responsible for opening ten new stores a month for a year. They also gave her sound advice about keeping her work and personal life in balance.Here are four practices that help you to be an effective heat shield and build trust: a) First. When it was announced that Merrill Lynch would be investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission in 2001. This should be a group of ten to twenty people whom you know well enough to be able to tell them: “Things are going to be tough the next few months. Build Crisis-Proof Relationships Effective leaders build what we call „crisis-proof‟ relationships.” 14 . “They basically kept me sane. ignore them. a partner in a venture capital company.” Because he validated their fears. keep a sense of perspective. it might include your boss. they felt safe. together. Every successful leader has some means to vent the heat away from work. Phil Jackson did it through meditation. said: “Well. a Starbucks marketing manager. Depending on your position. when facing hostile questions from the press about her role in the state‟s energy crisis. This group of investors and associates provided counsel to Scott – and assured him of their allegiance. But her marketing team kept giving her extra effort throughout the year. I‟m going to need your help to get through this. get it all on the table.” If lawyers advise you otherwise. two or three peers. you should build a strong reservoir of trust with these people. learned one of his partners wanted to split away from the firm. This means developing relationships with people both inside and outside the organization who will serve as key resources if and when a crisis hits.” Use your sense of humour. have a routine that allows you to vent pressure away from work. It turned out to be a smart strategy because Rachel found herself overwhelmed by work. They kept telling me to get it over with so we could all move on. Wait. she reached out to her marketing team for support. some key business associates and friends. he had his support network already in place. Understand the way in which the public honours honourable behaviour – and nothing is more honourable than admitting a mistake in public. The head of California‟s Public Utilities Commission. avoid the appearance of a cover-up. they kept me focused on what was important.” When Rachel. we worked out a quick settlement that was more profitable for me in the long run. but I know we‟re going to come through it. Come clean right away. at least I didn‟t cause the polar ice caps to melt this year. Don‟t assume that people‟s first reaction is the right one. “If I need to call you in the middle of the night to do something. When Scott. will you be okay with that?” Her colleagues said sure. Despite my instinct to fight for every last nickel. Say: “We accept complete responsibility for any part we had in this incident – and we will take corrective action immediately. I vow to keep you informed every step of the way. gather data. Be honest about what you do know and what you don‟t know.” b) Second. we‟ll let you know as soon as we find out anything. Bill Clinton jogged and played golf. d) Finally. one Merrill manager assembled his employees and said: “We‟re feeling a lot of pressure right now. If a reporter calls.” she said. and then move on. “More than anything. Long before a crisis hits. it‟s okay to say: “We‟re not sure what happened.

Don‟t trust everything you hear.” He rode out the storm. “Be truthful. The commissioner was fired. and with key legislators. Ultimately. Sure enough. A newly-hired manager in a California state agency knew his job would be on the line if a crisis ever hit. “Be independent. He also knew his boss was a loose cannon. the manager rallied his support network and asked them what to do. the boss was charged with accepting campaign contributions from the very insurance companies his agency was supposed to regulate – and then looking the other way when they violated state law. regularly communicating with his network to let them know that the business of the agency was still being conducted while the scandal was unfolding. when the first whiff of scandal was felt. a year after he was hired. Early on. That manager is still in his job today. There was a media feeding frenzy. http://www. So he quietly built strong relationships with governing board members.com/learning/tools/crisismanagement/crisisleadership/ 15 .Here‟s one more example.leadingresources. Adapted 31/01/12 from: © Leading Resources Inc. his finance team. long before the indictment.” they advised him. the legislature conducted hearings.