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7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis

Author: Bill George

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

ISBN: Mick Yates

Summary:A very readable book which simply but powerfully sets out the lessons of values-driven leadership in times of crisis (and thus of opportunity!).

7 Lessons

ISBN 978-0-470-53187-7

Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic, is the author of best seller "True North", in which he persuasively argued for the pursuit of "Authentic Leadership" - values driven, ethical, and with an eye to one's internal moral compass at all times.

In this short and very readable new book, Bill draws lessons both from well-worn examples (e.g. Jim Burke and J&J's Tylenol withdrawal) and from recent events, where leaders of all kinds have grappled both successfully and unsuccessfully with major influences on their industries. The book notes successful leaders like Anne Mulcahy at Xerox and Greg Steinhafel at Target, while also talking about the falls of Lehman Brothers' Dick Fuld and AIG's Martin Sullivan. As always, Bill does not pull many punches, naming names and pointing out flawed decsions - and his commentary adds an extra layer of understanding to what has gone wrong in the world in the past couple of years.

Of course, Bill also comments on his own experience, both at moments of success and times when his beliefs have been challenged by his actions. Both his own experiences and those of other leaders seem good examples of what Warren Bennis would call "crucible moments" - defining oneself by looking at the mirror and digging deep.

His 7 lessons?

  1. Face Reality, Starting with Yourself
  2. Get the World off Your Shoulders
  3. Dig Deep for the Root Cause
  4. Get Ready for the Long Haul
  5. Never Waste a Good Crisis
  6. You’re in the Spotlight: Follow True North
  7. Go on Offense, Focus on Winning Now

Throughout, Bill argues that a crisis can be used to advantage - to implement game-changing decisions that are much more difficult to make when times are good.

“There could not be a better testing ground for leaders than the global economic meltdown,” he writes. “I believe all the economic misery, financial disasters and millions of lost jobs will produce a new generation of leaders who are battle-tested in crisis and ready to get the global economy pointed in a healthier long-term direction.”

In discussing the recent financial meltdown, Bill suggests that, whilst high profits will return, the way money will be made will be different. I hope he's right! He urges leaders of all kinds to help re-shape the market, with a clear vision of the future and the development of strategies which play to an organization's strengths. In discussing the last lesson (Go on the Offense), Bill builds a further 7 step process to get us focused on winning:

  1. Rethink your industry strategy
  2. Shed your weaknesses
  3. Reshape the industry to play to your strengths
  4. Make vital investments during the downturn
  5. Keep people focused on winning
  6. Create your Company's image as the industry leader
  7. Develop rigorous execution plans

Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, it probably is if we are clear about our guiding principles.

A must read.