Leadership in Crisis Situations

Leadership Lessons from 9/11

NY Twin TowersLeadership Lessons from 9/11 by former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani: “Leadership is taught. You’re not born a leader, you have to learn how to become a leader.”

1. If you want to be a leader, you have to have strong ideas.
The best leaders have a strong vision of the direction of their organisation.
“If the captain of the ship can’t decide on the destination, the crew can’t participate in the journey.”
“When the big ideas predominate, people have perspective when the trivial events might otherwise distract them.”
The best way to figure out what your goals should be as a leader, is to talk to the people you work with to see what can be done. Communicate with your clients and customers about what they need, and anticipate the needs they don’t tell you about. “In a difficult growth period, constant communication and customer service are the great differentiators,” like for example Apple’s Steve Jobs example.

2. You have to be an optimist and a problem solver.
“Nobody wants to be led by a pessimist. Nobody follows ‘There is no hope’.”
People gravitate to leaders offering solutions. Even if the solution you offer is crazy and will never work, at least you’ve flipped the conversation from feeling sorry for yourselves to finding an answer that will work.
“Stop letting problems overwhelm you,” There is no problem that can’t at least be ameliorated, if not solved outright.

3. Have courage in the face of fear.
“If you’re going to innovate, there’s risk. If there’s risk, there’s fear of failure.” Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to stare fear in the face and move forward anyway.
Everybody gets scared, but courage allows you to take that fear and make something productive out of it.

4. Embrace relentless preparation.
Part of what allows you to turn your fear into a positive, is preparing enough to minimise that risk. For every one hour of court time, there should be four hours of preparation. Practice what you’re going to say, think about rebuttals from the opposition, imagine what could go wrong, and come up with strategies for all possible situations. It’s easy to see that this advice could be taken out of the court room into business presentations, meetings, and emergency preparedness.
There was no plan for something of the magnitude of the attacks of 9/11. There was a plan for terrorism, as well as fire, crashes, and an overwhelming influx of injured people, but not everything at once.
When starting to make decisions about what to do at Ground Zero, it was key to break the problem down into smaller chunks that were dealt with time and time again in the past. “If you can prepare for everything you can think of,” he said,” without knowing it, you will also prepare for the one thing you didn’t think of because it will just be a variation. To be able to rely on something you’ve done before is very comforting. It makes you feel like you can handle it.”

5. To accomplish anything, you need good people to help you.
To be an effective leader, you need to look in the mirror and answer this one question honestly: “What are my weaknesses and where can I find somebody who can help compensate for them?”
When becoming Mayor in New York, we knew everything about sorting out the crime problem, but nothing about how to fix the economy. It was necessary to build a team to rely on for the answers about the economy until becoming an expert yourself.

6. You have to communicate.
“Everything I’ve said so far is worth nothing if you don’t communicate it to your team.” You can’t assume any prior understanding of the situation or that your team members understand what’s expected of them. They’re not mind readers. Communicate clearly and frequently about the current state of things and expected future progress.
Part of opening honest channels of communication is connecting with the people you work with. “It’s more important to be there when things go wrong than when they’re going right,” he said. “If you’re there for them, they’ll be there for you. You’ve got to show caring for the people who work with you if you want them to go above and beyond the call of duty.”
“Never be afraid of failure. You learn more from it than you do from success.”
program here, and keep it in mind for next year.

NY GulianiFormer Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani spoke at the inaugural ‘In the Room’ conference. Organised by the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Finance, In the Room aims to stretch and expand the minds of Australian business leaders by focusing on three key areas: leadership, innovation, and risk.

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