By Dennis Culloton, CEO, President, Culloton + Bauer Luce
The entire globe and its leaders are undergoing a massive test of crisis management and crisis communications as we grapple with the global COVID 19 coronavirus pandemic.
We’ve seen the worst of humanity over the last several weeks, from stifling public discussion of the outbreak in China; to the White House dismissing the seriousness of the spread of the disease; to social media trolls spreading rumors and fomenting anger on the internet.
So—even as the baseball season was postponed, March Madness was cancelled and the lights went out on Broadway—there are leaders who offer shining examples of how to respond in a crisis.
On CNBC, former Cisco CEO John Chambers offered words of wisdom to private and public sector executives, many of whom have never experienced a global crisis as a leader and only led while we experienced an 11-year bull market run. He said there are four keys for any top executive:
1. Step up and take charge but also know what you don’t know and don’t be afraid to say so. Bring in the best experts to advise you as you build a strategy.
2. Outline crisply what you’re going to do—the key steps you are going to take to respond and prevail. Execute those steps one at a time but aggressively.
3. In leading, paint a picture for what you want things to look like a year from now so your team members can understand the goal.
4. Have an open dialogue with your constituencies—customers, shareholders, employees and yes, the news media.
Just a few hours after I saw that interview, here in Chicago Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot followed those rules of leadership to a tee, offering tough medicine to the state and city and being open about the fact that measures could be tougher still. But in so doing, they offered citizens clear guidelines and a vision of overcoming this public health emergency.
We are in uncharted waters but, amid the turmoil, great leaders will emerge.