In podcast episode 12, we discussed crisis leadership and how it can be applied in different situations. Our guest, Mike Barger, who has experience as a Navy fighter pilot (TOPGUN Chief Instructor), co-founder of JetBlue Airways and a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, brings a unique perspective on what it means to lead during a crisis.
One of the main takeaways from the episode is the importance of having a clear vision and values as a leader. This is crucial when facing uncertain and unpredictable situations. For instance, the speaker commented on how JetBlue's corporate value of "caring" underlines the importance of understanding and appreciating different stakeholders' perspectives and taking care of them. In addition, making trade-offs is inevitable when different stakeholders' interests do not align perfectly.
Another important aspect that we discussed is the need for effective communication. During a crisis, people look for tangible evidence of leadership, and they want and need leaders to believe in and trust. This is where effective communication becomes critical. Leaders must take charge, communicate a clear direction, and acknowledge that when something goes wrong, people start looking for someone to take charge and to have faith in.
Mike advocates for basic blocking and tackling fundamentals to be in place so that during a major disruption, there is no time wasted on who should come to the office or other basics. Crisis response teams should be alerted through a pre-planned email or alert, and advanced problem-solving should be the focus during crisis situations.
In addition, Mike emphasizes the importance of having a crisis response plan in place. Airlines, like JetBlue, have emergency response plans that are regularly practiced and updated to deal with various crisis scenarios. Generic planning for crises can help teams be better prepared for the unexpected and avoid "winging it."
Finally, Mike discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it forced many people and companies to reconsider their values and behaviors. The pandemic made it necessary for leaders to communicate more effectively, treat each other with kindness and respect, and prepare for crisis situations.
In conclusion, the episode provides excellent insights for leaders on how to lead during a crisis. Effective crisis leadership requires a clear vision and values, effective communication, and a crisis response plan. Being prepared in advance and having basic blocking and tackling fundamentals in place can go a long way in mitigating the damage caused by any crisis. Leading with empathy, caring, and respect not only helps in crisis situations, but also builds strong and resilient teams.
Co-hosts Bo Brabo & Luke Carignan