Leading in Times of Uncertainty - Part 2

In the last issue of Leadership Wired, we focused on Rudy Giuliani's leadership during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I want to look at five things leaders do in times of uncertainty, while giving examples from Giuliani's actions during this critical time.

We know what followers do -- they look for security, they reach out for hope, and they have a tendency to be paralyzed and do nothing. But what do leaders do in times of uncertainty?

1. They study other leaders who have led successfully during similar times.

Giuliani left the TV on through the night in case the terrorists struck again. He parked his muddy boots next to the bed in case he needed to head out fast. He was not going to do any sleeping. Lying in bed with the skyscrapers exploding over and over again on his TV screen, he pulled out a book -- Churchill, the new biography by Roy Jenkins -- turned straight to the chapters on World War II and drank in the Prime Minister's words: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

2. They give hope to others.

On September 12, 2001, Giuliani issued this statement to the media: "We're going to come out of this stronger than we were before. Emotionally stronger, politically stronger, and economically stronger." Keep in mind that this was the very next day after the attacks. It's one thing to say something like that days or weeks after it happened; it's quite another to stand up and say it so boldly and so immediately. In the midst of all the ruin and uncertainty, he found the strength to express hope.

3. They provide compassion to others.

Giuliani was the consoler in chief, strong enough to let his voice brim with pain, compassion and love. When he said, "The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear," he showed a side of himself that most people had never seen before. It was both sad and inevitable that it took a disaster of this magnitude to bring out the best in him. It took the trauma for us to discover the tenderness he had possessed all along; he showed it through the kindness he displayed to widows and children of the fallen.

4. They show courage to others.

Before 9/11 happened, Giuliani had a conversation with his father about courage and fear. "I said to him, 'Were you ever afraid of anything,' and he said to me, 'Always.' Then he said, 'Courage is being afraid, but then doing what you have to do anyway.'" His statement in a press conference just hours after the attack was filled with courage: "We will strive now to save as many people as possible and to send a message that the city of New York and the United States of America are stronger than any group of barbaric terrorists. I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country and the rest of the world that terrorism can't stop us."

5. They stay close to the people to give them security.

With the President out of sight for most of that day, Giuliani became the voice of America. Every time he spoke, millions of people felt a little better. His words were full of grief and iron, inspiring New York to inspire the nation. "Tomorrow New York is going to be here," he said. He also reacted to the assault with composure -- he spearheaded every aspect of the city's response effort, from stationing police officers at every subway station to regularly providing updates to the media as shock spread throughout the country and around the world.

I've led in times of crisis many times -- nothing compared to this -- but I've found that every time that people are uncertain and every time people are emotionally distraught, what they need more than anything else is the security of the presence of a leader, walking slowly through the crowds, listening to them, reaching out, hugging them, caring for them. In other words, just saying, "I'm here. I'm here for you. I'm here to serve you, I'm here to minister to you; I'm here to help you."

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at www.MaximumImpact.com.