Mayor of Plano, Texas
Mayor of Plano, Texas
"Crisis leadership requires real-time decision-making ..."
Why they're a Crisis Leader:
I met Harry and his soon-to-be wife Tracy in 1994 while volunteering for the same service agency in Dallas. It was clear from my first contact with Harry that he was an authentic man of service and leadership.
Harry’s authenticity is the first thing people notice about him. And his achievements illustrate his endless capacity for service.
Even though the demands on his time are extraordinary, when you’re speaking to him, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the room.
You’ll hear Harry mention the importance of our inner compass for us to navigate with Integrity, Intelligence, and Intent. From him, it’s not just advice; it’s also how he lives his life. Very, very authentic. In a crisis, this is even more evident.
As the twice-elected leader of one of the nation's largest cities, Harry radiates leadership competence.
And his insights into what makes a leader successful are one of many attributes that separate Harry from other elected officials and further cements his legacy as a leader among leaders.
#1 "What is a Crisis Leader?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What is a Crisis Leader?"
A crisis leader is a person who takes action at the very moment that action needs to be taken.
A crisis leader is someone who may not actually know what needs to be done, but knows that something needs to happen, and they take the initiative and accept the responsibility.
#2 "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
An example of a crisis leadership moment for me was back in 2017 when we had a council member who put a very racist and Islamophobic post on Facebook.
And I knew at that moment something needed to be done to show value to all our citizens. Not only the Muslims in our community but everybody.
I found out early that morning about it. I attempted to reach him, he did not respond to my calls. And I called a press conference at 1:00 and asked for his immediate resignation.
And it was important to do that in a very swift and decisive way because the ramifications of inaction was far worse than if my call for his resignation was right or not.
The reality is crisis leadership when you're in that moment is real time decisions.
Sometimes when you're making a critical decision, it may not actually be the best one.
And others around you, your team may not understand all the variables that are in play.
But as a leader, it's up to you to assess it, filter them and then decide what's the best thing to do or not to do.
Very often though, rarely is inaction the best decision.
#3 "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
What I know now that I wish I knew then is that leadership calls for you to be prepared all the time.
There's no manual to prepare you for the unexpected. And so the reliance of your confidence and abilities in yourself is the ultimate manual you have.
There's an inner compass in you that tells you whether you're operating out of integrity, intelligence and intent.
And as long as those three are met, then you will always get to the right place.
#4 "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
The advice I'd give to someone who wants to improve their crisis leadership skills is the same advice I'd give to just anyone looking to improve pure leadership skills.
And I call it the Four L's of leadership.
- Leaders listen
- Leaders learn
- Leaders lead by example
- Leaders let go
So in order for you to be an effective leader, you have to listen to your team. You have to get their input, you have to get their feedback. You will ultimately make the decision but in order to get their buy in to complete the task, you have to listen.
Leaders learn by virtue of taking action. You learn from your mistakes and you correct your course.
Leaders lead by example. You have to be the first one in, last one out. You have to work harder than anyone.
The example I always say if there's a pile of rocks in one corner that you need to take to the other corner, you just start picking up the rocks. You try to pick up the largest one and all of a sudden people will all of a sudden want to help you and assist you. And the last one which is the hardest one is leaders let go.
And what I mean by that is in order to be a truly effective leader, you have to let go of the process.
And leaders by nature tend to be controlling. But if you micromanage, you will not empower your team. But if you listen, learn and live by example, then it's incumbent on you to step away and allow your team to execute on the plan.
And I say four L's.
The fifth one I say jokingly is the fifth L is after you've done all those things, the best leaders leave.
Because a true leader what they do is they don't build followers, they build other leaders. They cultivate other leaders.
#5 "Who is a Crisis Leader that influenced your career?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "Who is a crisis leader that influenced your career?"
Two crisis leaders influence me and my life.
I am a big proponent of having mentors and if you don't have a direct mentor I believe in virtual mentors and so one of them was Dr. Martin Luther King.
He operated in constant crisis.
Sometimes he created the crisis to lead through it and he had a plan and he had a resolve to see it through in a manner that most of us probably could not do.
And the other leader, someone who I was fortunate to meet, is Colin Powell.
He and I have so many similarities in our background. We both were born in the West Indies, both grew up in Harlem, both studied geology at City College in New York, and then our careers took a little bit of different path. I became mayor and he became, I think, a five-star general and Secretary of State.
But he faced a lot of different challenges and crisis and he also had a, it was very process-orientated.
He operated with integrity and intelligence, intellect, intent, and all the things that you need to be grounded before you make decisions.
So those are the two people I look at towards emulating their leadership skills.