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The crisis dilemma: how to overcome life’s worst outcomes

Actualizado: 24 ago 2022

By Juanpablo Barrantes Leader’s approach (5 min read)

“The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis” —Bryan Tracy.

Have you ever experienced a crisis in your life?

What comes to your mind each time you hear the word “crisis”? First,I’d like to clarify on what might be a sound meaning of the the word “crisis”. Any serious or critical situation that puts in danger the development of a process, a particular matter or a person (or a group of people) is known as a crisis. During and especially after a crisis, there’s a person whom everyone will point out while suffering in the process and then after the consequences are visible: THE LEADER.

Here’s a story I want to bring into memory in order to stress on the above affirmation, because in the end it’s the leader the ultimate responsible on the actions and the outcomes during and after times of crisis. On 13 January 2012, the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground and overturned after striking an underwater rock off Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, resulting in 32 deaths. The eight-year-old Costa Cruises vessel was on the first leg of a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea when she deviated from her planned route at the Isola del Giglio, sailed closer to the island, and struck a rock formation on the sea floor.

A six-hour rescue effort brought most of the passengers ashore. This accident remains as one of the most serious in recent history of tourist-class cruise but it’s also remembered as it should had been ridiculously avoidable if only the leader in charge would acted according to his role, by doing the right thing, and no more than that... Talking about the Costa Concordia’s leader, Francesco Schettino, the facts after the investigation signaled him as the main responsible of such disaster resulting in 32 people dead (28 passengers and 4 members of the crew), 64 people seriously injured, more than 4 thousand people rescued and more than € 600 million worth of costs and penalties, let alone the permanent brand-image damage and the eventual loss of customers, particularly because the Company’s top Executives also reacted too late and so wrong during the post-disaster critical timeframe.

So how did this mess happen?

Everything came out of a particular recklessness: Captain Schettino ordered his crew to dangerously approach the coast at high speed, then hitting the ship against the rocks at the bottom of the seashore. What happened next was even more irresponsible when Captain Schettino delayed the Emergency callout to the coast authorities or to any of his superiors for more than one hour! As a matter of fact, the intervention of the rescue boats was thanks to the advice of the people in the coast who were observing something fatal had just happened. To make things worst, investigation after the disaster determined that Captain Schettino was one of the first in abandoning the ship while sinking and overturning, leaving his crew and any of the people under his responsibility abandoned to their own luck.

As this accident became into a crisis, I’d like to ponder on key learning lessons for everyone of us who are under the duty of addressing conflict in a completely opposite way as the Costa Concordia’s leadership, so you don’t allow yourself to drain your reputation as a leader because of how you confront calamity.

Take note on the following advice each time you face crisis whatsoever.

  • Assume Full Responsibility of your mistake.

  • Make yourself accountable.

  • Don’t try to ignore or underestimate what happened.

  • Don’t make excuses neither put the blame in others.

The most important thing at this point is to acknowledge the situation before someone makes a wrong or negative opinion about you, thus affecting your reputation as a leader. The sooner you hold yourself accountable, the greater support and respect you’ll earn.

Communicate before it’s too late.  Whenever you fail big at something important, you should let know immediately everyone around the problem about what had just happened. Don’t let time to pass by because the longer you delay communication, the worst the consequences might be. When disclosing your story about the problem, avoid getting into unnecessary details, instead get to the point and how you plan to solve it and avoid recurrence.

Stop the Bleeding. No matter the circumstances, your top priority should be to do whatever it’s within your reach to prevent damage is spreading out. If your relationships are in danger, do apologize and show your support. If there are finance issues at play, recover as much as possible. Gauge each key aspect involved and move yourself promptly to protect and save anything that might be at risk of being harmed as an effect of the crisis.

Define next steps. As part of this process, a post crisis review is key to understand that there shouldn’t be any situation you can’t address it if you face it objectively and unruffled. You just have to focus on solutions and in getting ahead by owning the problem by yourself. Show those around you who’s in charge and let them know they can count on your leadership anytime, especially during crisis.

Show what you have learned. Each calamity, even the worst mistake has something to teach so in the future you profit on the lessons learned. If you are going to pay the price out of your mistake, it’s better to get a benefit out of the learnings you’ll get, which will surely help you to avoid making the same mistake twice.

Serious mistakes and the subsequent crisis play a fundamental role in the development and growth of any leader. If you as a leader face calamity by doing the right thing while learning in the process, you’ll display the proper message to your team, to the public and not less important, your reputation will gain respect because you showed presence and character when most needed.

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