7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis

by Bill George

Number of pages: 160

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

BBB Library: Leadership, Operations Management

ISBN: 9780470531877

About the Author

Bill George is a professor of management and leadership at Harvard Business School. He was a chief executive of Medtronic. Under his leadership, Medtronic market capitalization grew from $1.1 billion to $60 billion, averaging 35% a year.


Editorial Review

Book Reviews

"This is a slender but deceptively profound book, “a practical guide to leaders about navigating through a crisis,” in which more than 70 leaders featured in this book serve as exemplars of George’s key points, for better or worse. A few are admirable or contemptible but most are ranged somewhere in between. While reading this book, it is important to keep in mind that he is examining human behavior in extreme circumstances. George duly acknowledges his own deficiencies. At one point in his narrative, he confides that his own defining moment occurred in 1988 when he realized that, for reasons best revealed in context, he “was in the midst of a crisis and drifting away from his True North.” While driving near his home, he looked into the rearview of his car and saw “a person striving so hard to become CEO of a large company like Honeywell that he was rapidly abandoned his True North,” his internal compass, his personal GPS to remain on as proper course."First Friday Book Synopsis

"It’s rare to read a book where the introduction is almost worth the price of the book all by itself, but in Bill George’s 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis, the introduction succinctly explains the recent financial downturn with great clarity and simplicity. He doesn’t pull punches and names names. But don’t stop at the introduction." Financial Post

"What sets George's book apart from the usual lists of leadership must-dos are the stories he tells about individual leaders facing crises, such as Piper Jaffrey CEO Tad Jaffrey, who solved a critical corporate problem with wisdom he learned in Alcoholics Anonymous. And George is, as always, startlingly honest about himself, talking frankly about his own dark fears and personal support systems. His surprising advice on how to build your resilience? Keep in shape, meditate, and don't take yourself too seriously."The Washington Post

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Wisdom to Share

Crisis is the defining moment for a leader.

Although there is always the danger of failing, guiding people through a major problem is your best opportunity to develop your leadership.

Until you acknowledge that you are facing a serious problem, including your role in creating it, you cannot move to solve it.

Crisis isn't going to fix itself, so denying its existence can only make things worse.

You cannot get through this alone, so don't try to carry the whole world on your shoulders.

Reach out to others inside your organization and in your personal life to share the burden and help you come out a winner.

This is a great opportunity to strengthen chemistry within your team, because the strongest bonds are built in crisis.

Faced with a pending crisis, some leaders take the whole burden on themselves.They retire to their offices to ruminate about the problems and try to work out solutions in their heads.People in the organization start speculating about what is happening with their boss, who seems so withdrawn.Then the rumors start, and they are always worse than reality.

To avoid the pitfalls of carrying the world on your shoulders, you also need support from people outside the company to get through it.

Your external support team cares about you personally and is far less inclined to judge your actions in the company.

If you surround yourself only with positive people, your team may reinforce your natural instincts to solve the problem before it is fully understood.

It is tempting to think of crises as events to weather until things return to normal.Even when an organization is in a full-fledged crisis mode, many people assume that they just need to make tactical changes to get through the crisis, like cutting back production schedules until demand comes back.It is just a matter of time, they argue, until the business returns to where it was in its heyday. Like sailors at sea, they batten down the hatches until the storm passes.

The modern media world with its multiplicity of new information sources presents myriad pitfalls and opportunities.

During a crisis, the spotlight on leaders is turned up to maximum intensity.

People are so nervous and hungry for information that they hang on every word from their leaders, try to glean clues from their body language, facial expressions, and even the color of their ties or suits!

The key to handling public issues is to be open, straightforward and transparent.

In a crisis, both employees and external observers are extremely sensitive to any attempt to dissemble or hide the truth.

In Transparency, Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman and James O'Toole write about the importance of creating a culture of candor. Where such a culture does not exist, information doesn't flow freely through the organization, and its leaders often don't know what is going on.The only way to create such a culture is for leaders to be candid themselves.

As a leader, you need to keep people informed of what's going on. The greater your openness, the more people will rely on you to provide them with the inside view, and the less they will rely on the rumor mill.

Look at crisis as a gift. It provides you a golden opportunity that may not come again to reshape your business and your industry and emerge as the winner. But you've got to be bold and focused to seize it.

A crisis presents the opening to eliminate your organization's weaknesses, especially if it is too bureaucratic or too slow-moving to be competitive.

Intel offers evidence that you cannot wait to make vital investments you need to win in the emerging market.