The media has begun posing the question, “Is the BP oil crisis in the gulf Obama’s Katrina?”
Any leader–Obama, Bush, Clinton, et al–faces challenges. Eventually most face crisis and while the magnitude varies the result is the same: their crisis leadership skills are revealed. Regrettably some leaders don’t develop the necessary skills until they are in the crucible of the crisis and by then it can be too late.
It behooves any leader to study crisis management before he or she is put to the test. History is replete with examples of leaders who have faced crisis and how they ultimately prevailed or failed. Like buying a home security system after the break-in, however, many leaders learn “on the job” when they are thrust into a critical situation.
Having a positive leadership agenda and the ability to work with others to get things done are the popularly studied aspects of leadership. Let’s not forget a careful study of crisis and how to handle it lest we find ourselves unprepared to face the crucible.
Great point! Real leadership is not having to tell people that you are leading. Some of the best leaders are people who are not in “leadership” positions.
As Bryan says: great point! I wonder, though, how useful it is. You can learn a lot from studying history (and therefore, as the saying goes, not be doomed to repeat it), but will that ultimately prepare you for handling your own crisis? I suspect a lot of people end up reacting with gut instincts, which is why military training spends so long drilling the same routines. Practice them enough and they *become* your gut instincts.
Can you do crisis training the same way? If leaders were forced into crisis drills at regular intervals, would it ultimately sharpen their crisis response time? I would think so, but I’ve never heard of top leadership teams doing regular, hands-on, simulated crisis handling.
We always ask developers applying for jobs at http://rypple.com to talk about Kobayashi Maru — mostly as a fun way of testing whether they’ll fit into our culture. For those not up on their Star Trek references, the Kobayashi Maru test is apparently part of graduating from Starfleet Academy:
Rescuing the civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru is the notional primary goal in a simulated battle with the Klingons. The ship is disabled and the approaching cadet crew must decide whether or not to attempt rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew – potentially endangering their own ship and lives – or leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction. From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobayashi_Maru
The test has no actual winning outcome, so it’s a question of weighing the lesser of two evils (unless you’re James Kirk and you hack the simulation to allow you to win 🙂 ). Coming back to reality, the idea of simulating that kind of crisis in a realistic scenario is much better training than reading up on how past leaders have handled their own realities.
On a related note, I wonder if “X’s Katrina” has replaced “X’s Waterloo” or “X’s Watergate”. Suppose it depends how you handle it 🙂
Mark, Thanks for the “must” reinforcement. Crisis management requires prior preparation. For most problems, having a plan, training and supplies in place eliminates many crises before they start.
We inoculate against disease, have fire extinguishers, carry a coat or umbrella, buy insurance, have a spare tire, etc., etc.
The step of preparing for “crisis” of most magnitudes that an individual or a company can successfully address is a similar step.
Thanks for your work & your heart.
One of my favorite quotes from Rudy Giuliani –
It’s up to a leader to instill confidence, to believe in his judgement, and to believe in his people when they don’t believe in themselves.
Liked Jay’s suggestion on ‘crisis training’…hmmmm, may have to meditate on that for a leadership module. Certainly, a FUN point with Kobayashi Maruthe point.
Perhaps a future book, Mark?