Imagine you are sitting in your office when your assistant rushes in to tell you that your security system has been breached. Sensitive customer information has been compromised. You get a chill down your spine, as you struggle to maintain your composer. Your assistant dreaded having to make this announcement, fully expecting a highly charged emotional outburst. She anxiously awaits your response.
This incident will test your true leadership ability to remain calm, rational, and to demonstrate your ability to take charge under pressure. You could start the “blame game” by immediately finding fault with your security software or your IT team. You could hurriedly create a “damage control plan” to minimize the problem. You could simply pull out the bottle of whiskey you have in your bottom drawer and take a few shots.
The prudent leader would first seek to get all of the needed relevant information by gathering his or her key advisors to review the situation. He or she would immediately contact his or her superiors to let them know about the situation, while letting them know that his or her team was working to identify the scope of the issue, followed by the formulation of the needed corrective action. The leader would give his superiors a specific time he or she would report back.
As the details are ascertained, the team should determine their course of action, keeping the impact to their customers as their prime focus. They will need to make a timely announcement to their customers identifying what happened, what the impact is to the individual customers, what will be done to correct the situation and by creating a communication channel to field customer questions and concerns. A customer-focused approach will go a long way toward maintaining the integrity of the company, which will now be subject to intense scrutiny.
Good leaders stand up and take responsibility. They replace excuse making with full disclosure and offering an effective plan for recovery. They show empathy for those who may have been harmed. They act with a “compassionate leadership” style.
The distrust of the general populace of community, business, and political leaders stems from a steady stream of talking points, spinning narratives, and denials that have replaced accountability, truthfulness and transparency. People simply don’t trust many of our traditional leaders. Even the most eager leader will struggle in this negative environment.
Leaders need to be masters of persuasion. To be able to be “innovative change agents”, they must develop and sustain a strong bond with those they lead exemplified by a consistent display of integrity. What everyone wants from a leader is the ability to “fess up” when he or she makes a mistake. They then want the person who “Fouled up” to fix the damage done rather than making excuses or pushing the fix onto someone else.
After the damage has been fixed, the leader must learn from the mistakes made. This will prevent similar mistakes in the future. This learning process is the difference between average and great leaders. Great leaders spend time in meaningful reflection before taking on the next challenge.
Excellent leaders rise to every occasion replacing chaos with a sense of calm resolve.
Lloyd “Skip” Amstrup earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from San Jose State University. He taught high school students for eight years and worked in the insurance industry for 32 years, retiring as a field executive for State Farm. He was born in San Francisco and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of “Found Treasure Gems of Great Leadership and Personal Skills”, designed to help readers build their leadership skills, learn to make informed choices and shape their personal brand. He shares his “Five F’s to a Successful Life” and helps individuals define his or her personal aspirations. The subjects include faith, failure, family, fear, feelings, focus, flexibility, forgiveness, freedom, fruitfulness, friendship, future, funniness, framework and fundamentals. His approach helps readers define and meet their leadership goals in their personal and professional lives