Executive Careers Blog

How To Lead In A Crisis


The World Business Forum starts today in New York City bringing together political and business leaders for two days to discuss the ongoing crisis, leadership, talent management, leading change in jobless times and many more issues related to how we conduct business and lead teams today.

For a CEO, this event promises to show key indicators of where and what might lead us out of the current crisis. From changing the way you mentor teams, spearhead campaigns and make your brand successful, the next decade will require evolved leadership skills if you and your company want to succeed. The introductory speaker Bill George, ex-CEO of Medtronix and a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School will focus on discussing the focal point of the event: How to lead in times of crisis.

He will speak from experience.

He has not only led Medtronix for a number of years but also serves on boards of many multinational companies and has authored several books including his latest publication 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis.

In a recent guest post on Vault’s CSR blog In Good Company, he says “It’s quite easy to be a measured, good-natured, principled and strategic leader in smooth sailing, but reputations are made in the depth of crisis. I want to ensure that the next generation of leaders, like those students of mine at HBS, clearly understand that concept and grasp the inherent vulnerability they face as leaders in crisis.”

His primary concern though is a familiar one and one that hits at the top of every company:  That the economic collapse was not caused by oft-repeated reasons like subprime mortgages and credit default swaps but by failed leadership.

Below are a few tips he hopes will help you as company (and team) leader to make the right decisions and keep everyone afloat.

  • Don’t point fingers when you are to blame.
  • Don’t try to go it alone – you will fail.
  • Don’t go for the quick fix.
  • Don’t forget the media – they hang on every word.
  • Don’t shy away from opportunity – come out swinging.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your leadership style.
  • Don’t ever, ever waste a good crisis - it is your opportunity to change your company for the better
  • Do get behind the podium and inspire your company back to profitability.
  • Do get down in the weeds with your managers and work the problem.
  • Do focus on long-term viability rather than short-term profits.
  • Do be forthright in acknowledging fault.
  • Do encourage a culture of candidness. Do call on trusted mentors when you need a fresh perspective.
  • Do keep a close eye on the balance sheet (in crisis, cash is king).
  • Simply, lead with every intention of having an aggressively positive impact on your company, employees, and customers. Crisis or not.

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Aman Singh is an Editor with Vault and works with Fortune 500 companies on reporting their diversity recruitment strategies and initiatives.
Comments?  Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com