Ketchum Partner (and my boss) Nick Ragone recently launched his fourth book, Presidential Leadership: 15 Decisions That Changed the Nation.
Among those fifteen decisions, there are five lessons that are particularly relevant for crisis managers:
1) Get out ahead of an issue. Nick focuses on President FDR’s mission to move the United States from an isolationist to interventionalist nation to provide counterbalance as the threat of war became more evident. FDR addressed the nation early and often to emphasize the possibility and importance of U.S. involvement – a wise foundation to set prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
- Many organizations can begin to address emerging threats before they occur. Set foundations for employees or address industry issues in advance of flashpoints. These actions can help provide focus and context for an organization’s mission, should a crisis occur.
2) Evolve thinking over time. Nick’s chapter that focuses on the Civil War shows how President Lincoln evolved from a Unionist to adopt a greater mission for the good of the nation.
- Great crisis managers can learn from this. It is important to properly “define the problem” in the early stages of a crisis. However, it’s equally important to continually evaluate factors and re-define the problem and calibrate the approach to how a crisis is managed over time.