Monthly Archives: December 2012

Leadership Means Taking a Stand in Times of Crisis

This last week I’ve observed how individuals and organizations have responded to the tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. It began shortly thereafter with President Obama’s remarks on Friday, “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years… As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children and we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Sandy Hook Memorial

As I heard the words my immediate thought was “gun control”—and that he’s really sticking his neck out on this one. I hoped it wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction. And then my mind drifted to the topic of leadership, and that’s where it stuck. Good leaders take a well-reasoned stand and act to make it happen. This takes courage, an essential leadership element.

The following Tuesday Cerberus Capital Management LP, owner of the Freedom Group which made the Bushmaster rifle used by the shooter in this tragedy, announced that it will sell the group. While the motives of the sale may be many, the important point is that Cerberus is also taking a stand and moving forward. That’s leadership.

So when a time of crisis emerges remember that it’s time for you to earn your paycheck and your stripes. Ask for opinions, remain open for a while and then begin to formulate options and strategies. You don’t need to be 100% sure—that’s analysis paralysis, but once you’ve got a good feeling about the path forward lay out the steps to make it happen, including clear concise communications and go!


  • Times of crisis are when leadership is needed and desired
  • Listen, learn, determine options, then choose and take the position
  • Communicate the path and reasons behind it

Keywords: leadership, courage, communication


  • Iacocca, L. (2007). Where Have All the Leaders Gone? New York: Scribner.
  • Spreitzer, G. M., McCall, M. W., & Mahoney, J. D. (1997). Early identification of international executive potential. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(1), 6–28.
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