The Evolution of Crisis Management During Trying Times: A Conversation with John Leon

Successful companies and enterprises thrive by minimizing unpredictability, but in times of trouble, when not a single industry vertical or geographic location in the world has been spared from the negative effects of increased volatility, complex geopolitical challenges and widespread social unrest, the ongoing deployment of advanced crisis management strategies has become a necessity for most businesses and public figures.

Prior to the ongoing global pandemic, companies across America and the world had already turned to crisis management experts in a major way; According to a PWC survey, over 74% of companies that faced a major crisis from 2014 to 2019 sought outside help during a serious episode. However, the past months have exacerbated the tension for countless businesses that face new threats within a rapidly changing landscape.

Experts like John Leon, Esq. believe that companies with robust national presence need to take a close look at the methodology that is currently in place for the successful navigation of potential operational, ethics, compliance, communications and mismanagement crisis scenarios. Paying attention to the big picture when it comes to crisis management is a must, and implementing robust contingency plans could prove priceless, if and when the proverbial storm hits.

Mr. Leon has established a sterling reputation for himself in the legal and corporate arenas, thanks to his diligence and tenacity when it comes to developing and executing multi-layered strategies for a myriad of influential clients including Fortune® 500 companies; In the crisis management world, the ability to respond quickly and accurately can make or break a company. In the following interview, John Leon shares his insights into the evolution of modern leadership and crisis management:

How do you define a crisis?

A crisis is a problem that impacts a company across several areas: operations, image, morale and even the reputations of its leaders. It can start with an incident but if not properly managed can escalate to a crisis. The tipping point is when it reaches the level of it causing problems for those areas I described. Then you really have a full-blown crisis on your hands.

Is it possible to prepare for a crisis? If so, what are the steps?

As has often been said, an ounce of prevention if worth a pound of cure. Training goes a long way in preventing relatively small situations from becoming an issue. Whether it’s in the work culture, operations, or management. A properly trained staff is the best preparation because long before it can become a crisis, any situation be fixed or altogether avoided.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Leadership itself if the most critical role because how you lead is how you achieve successful outcomes. And challenging times are when you can really see the true mettle of your leader. Someone who is volatile or easily distressed and scattered will inevitably take the company or organization in chaos and dysfunction. A true leader has to set a tone in the direction of success. He or she should be steady in his or her resolve, should have the ability to see things from multiple perspectives and if not should be willing to listen to those around him or her who do. It’s a fine balance between understanding your own strengths and those of your team and know when and how to deploy them at the right time.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

In a crisis situation, I do believe in exuding a positive attitude. If you appear defeated, then you may as well already be because not only will that bring down morale but will influence how your decisions are being made. I always advise my clients that their employees, shareholders, and clients are looking at them for the kind of confidence that shows you can overcome the crisis and come out on top.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

It depends on the news itself of course. But as a matter of course, my advice is always to have a strategy in place before making any announcements. While it doesn’t help to cover up news because inevitably it will leak out, it’s better to deliver it in your own terms. More complications arise from impromptu ways of communicating difficult news. It’s best to have all the facts on hand to support your communications strategy so you know what and how to divulge difficult news.

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