Intense pressure often calls for knee-jerk reactions. While firm responses are needed from leaders, they should resist the temptation to centralise control and stifle frontline ownership.
It’s the late-night phone call every CEO dreads: There has been a terrible accident, lives and livelihoods have been lost – and the firm is liable. If the situation is bad enough – like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on 20 April 2010 – it could plunge the firm into crisis mode and place a lasting black mark on its reputation. Executives know well the painful steps that must follow: internal investigations, crisis management, and, of course, costly legal battles. These are necessary and inevitable consequences without which there can be no rebuilding of trust. Yet they deal mainly with determining how a terrible thing occurred, not the deeper reasons why. To resolve the underlying issues, not just clear away symptoms, is a leadership challenge of the highest order.