Leading in Times of Crisis

September 11th was a defining moment for everyone in America, and for many people around the world. I am 55 years old and the big thing for me as I grew up was, of course, John F. Kennedy's assassination. Some of you reading this were not even a gleam in your mother's eye when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In fact, I can remember going around asking the question, "Where were you when you found out that our president had been assassinated?"

People that are my age immediately remember exactly where they were. I was a junior in high school. I was going down to a high school basketball assembly (I was going to be playing ball that night.) Mary Raymond came out of the principal's office and said, "John, the President's been shot." I can remember that just as clear as yesterday.

I also used to ask the question, "Where were you when the Challenger blew up?" Many more of you remember when the space shuttle Challenger was lost. You probably can recall where your where and who you were with when all of a sudden in a puff of smoke, we realized that ship was destroyed.

Like Kennedy's assassination and the loss of the space shuttle Challenger, our life will be forever marked by September 11th. Where were you when you found out or looked on the television and saw the Twin Towers collapsing and realizing that the financial and the economic picture of America was crumbling into dust right before our eyes? It was a very, very defining moment.

The following article appeared in the December 3rd, 2001 issue of Newsweek magazine:

Bush recalled the instance that his - and the country's - life had changed. Andy Card, his chief of staff, had leaned over him at an education event in Florida and whispered, "A second plane has hit the World Trade Center. America is under attack." The president had tried not to look shocked. "I was very aware of the camera," he recalled during a candid, hour-long interview with Newsweek - his first, and the couple's first, since 9-11. "'America is under attack.' I am trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to.

I'm sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children's story...and I realize I'm the commander in chief and the country has just come under attack." Soon he was in a holding room, watching the nightmarish video. "I was furious," he said. By the time he got back on Air Force One, he had made the fundamental decision. "We're at war," he told his aides. "That's what we're paid for, boys."

In every age, there comes a time when a leader must come forward to meet the needs of the hour.

 Historically, those who have led successfully during times of crisis have done seven things:

1. Stand up and be seen.

2. Embrace brutal optimism.

3. Stick to the facts.

4. Tell a story in a statement.

5. The bottom line comes second.

6. Link the ordinary to the extraordinary.

7. Don't overreach.

We will dive deeper into these seven points with the next issue of Leadership Wired.

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