“I may be a bit bold in saying so and I may be exaggerating to make a point, but I believe that the geopolitics of today have not come anywhere near testing the resolve of today’s leaders when it comes to recovering from crises since the second World war. Since 1945, for much of the time between then and now, we have been comfortable reading the news over breakfast and thanking heaven that the major problems were happening elsewhere and perhaps tut-tutting between mouthfuls of marmalade on toast. The things that have been presented to us were issues like apartheid, Suez, the Cuban missile crisis, the Cold War, the Middle East (wherever that was!) and Rwandan genocide. All of it happening somewhere over ‘there’.
Today, as we all know, it couldn’t be more different. We are not only reading every morsel fed to us by the plethora of media transmitting full and fine details, debates, challenges, images, videos and accusations, we are actively encouraged to take part. These are indeed exciting times. We immerse ourselves (like me, currently writing this blog) in the sometimes vain hope that we are making a difference and shaping thinking. Often, we are; with millions of ‘followers’ on social networking sites waiting with bated breath on the next great missive transmitted from the heart. We are now voyeurs and more than ever before.
The real strategic crisis leadership challenge for us all is that with the advent of social networking and indeed the internet before that, crises is presenting itself to us faster than we can manage it ‘out’. Just when you think you have the solution to your governmental, corporate or team spontaneous event, some consultant is telling you that the mitigating steps that you just took to protect your organisation is outdated at the same time presenting you with the next apparently 'fully clothed' emperor. The world is indeed changing faster than you as the crisis leader you are can think; opinion is being forged from a different mould long before the delivery of your current security strategy and your strategic customers and their budgets are being distracted by the next shiny solution, farm fresh and still in its box.
In order to keep up with this fast changing set of global circumstances, crisis leaders are using (being forced to use by virtue that they have to keep up with the speed of events) the very tools that are dictating the speed of change in order to get their messages out. I bet Jack Dorsey (the inventor of Twitter) never planned for the President of the United States to use tweets to communicate government strategy changes, change voters’ views on opposing candidates and attack the media. Equally, I would also wager that Mark Zuckerberg didn’t think that so many leaders would need to retract so many unwise and offensive articles and images transmitted in haste.
I would like to emphasise that, just like satellite navigation, the tools we have perhaps had to adopt today are there only to assist us to be great crisis leaders and serve only to guide us. I still strongly believe that great leaders are visible, personally engaging, are able to grow even more capable through learning directly from others and share lessons personally learned. In the current day context of fast time communication, we seem to want to ‘transmit’ quickly more than we want to ‘receive’ and all we really end up with is ‘static’. We need to slow down to understand the challenges and we need to change our style of engagement with others if we want to really make a difference.
nStratagem's ability to guide corporate level teams to help them reflect, plan and deliver new thinking, practices and approaches around crisis leadership is unparalleled. We bring to the Boardroom and the leadership teams a sense of confidence to command and a trust to work together in preparation for that next critical event.
Look forward to your thoughts and comments on this article.
Brett Lovegrove is an Associate of nStratagem. We have a great deal of experience in helping leaders and organizations through their development and challenges. Contact us for a discreet discussion.