US Army Intelligence; Stuttgart, Germany
Strategic Leadership in Crisis Management
"Trust your intuition ..."
Why they're a Crisis Leader:
Jonathan and I first met as regular contributors of an online TV show called “The Crisis Show,” where we would discuss a topical crisis event that was extensively covered by the news media.
Those appearances were colored by Jonathan’s well-developed sense of humor and witty repartee. Needless to say, we hit it off immediately.
Of course, his role in extracting and sharing his keen insights into the crisis also proved to be phenomenal. Jonathan is a seasoned crisis leader in part because of his pragmatic and informed approach to navigating his clients through even the thorniest of crises for over 30 years.
Chocked full of helpful lessons, I’m pleased to able to share some of Jonathan’s stories here.
#1 "What is a Crisis Leader?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What is a Crisis Leader?"
So first Mike, thanks for asking me.
A crisis leader really is someone who can keep his head when people are shooting at his feet literally or figuratively.
In the military they call that situational awareness.
It's ability to think intuitively and quickly, and kind of jump from point A to point L sometimes without necessarily working out the steps in between.
But I think a crisis leader is also someone who inspires this organization to build crisis preparedness and crisis response best practices right into the fabric of the organization, so.
#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?"
So, I was in the military for five years and I was originally trained as a military cop, and before I got into military intelligence work.
I was on routine patrol of a military housing area in the Stuttgart area in 1974 or so and I suddenly saw smoke coming out from the local high school and drove my Jeep right over there and there were people streaming out of the building.
There was black smoke coming out of the building, basically a lot of chickens with their heads cut off.
Fire department was not there yet. German Fire Department served the housing area and they had not yet arrived.
So I went in and tried to take control of the situation because nobody there was and I was able to direct people to evacuate.
I was actually able to find the source of the fire which was couch that students had set on fire in a stairwell as a senior prank and I managed to heave the couch out a big plate glass window and that took care of the stairwell.
So at the end of the day, I basically played firefighter as a cop but we were able to identify some suspects, nobody got hurt, I got a lot of smoke inhalation but I found that I had a knack for leading in a crisis that, you know that was the first time I had really tested that and it motivated me to do more of the same.
#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?"
One thing I wish is that I knew then I could make a good living telling other people what to do when the shit hit the fan.
I didn't know it was a career at that point, but apparently it was.
But more seriously, that was one of the first times that I really trusted my intuition in a dangerous situation.
And I wish it didn't take me as long as it did to start to really trust that inner voices.
Probably took me decades before I fully trusted my intuition, and that's a critical skill to refine if you're gonna be a crisis leader.
#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?"
Well, basically people should learn to listen, and they should learn to learn, and they should learn to practice.
And by listening, I mean listening to the people who you lead, and ask them for feedback on your leadership skills.
If you can't have transparent communication, you're never gonna know when you're going a little bit off track, or discouraging people, or encouraging people.
And also, learn more skills of the type necessary to be a good crisis leader. We're not born with all of them.
And there's plenty of training available out there.
And then practice that, with workshops, and simulations of various kinds.
But also, as I'd mentioned in an earlier question, this whole idea of intuition is a skill set in and of itself. I think everybody's intuitively born with a certain degree of intuition, and there's all kinds of psych tests which test your intuitive abilities.
But whatever your level of intuition is, it can be refined.
And it's learning some unusual business skills, like meditation, learning how to get to that quiet place inside of you where your intuition resides. And there's a lot of paths to get there.
But I think that you'll find that a great many crisis leaders have learned to do that.
#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?"
Strangely enough, in one brief moment in our history I put a crisis leader on a pedestal from which he later fell rather hard. And that was Rudy Giuliani. His performance as a crisis leader on and about 9-11 was phenomenal.
It was the epitome of what I later dubbed the three rules of crisis communications. The need to come across with compassion, confidence, and competence.
He really demonstrated all three of those consistently during the early days of that crisis. Unfortunately, he's gone off on a very weird tangent since then, but and tried to sell himself as a crisis manager at one point, but that didn't work out.
But in the moment, he was the guy who could reach that quiet place and lead and he did it very well and that was inspirational to me.