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In Crisis Follow Condoleezza Rice’s Advice; Be Firm

October 25, 2011 Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, spoke at Bluementhal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC as part of Queens University’s Leadership Series. She describes, quite eloquently, a moment during 9/11 after the third plane hit the Pentagon. President George W. Bush told Condoleezza Rice that he was coming back to Washington. Rice explained it was the only time she ever spoke firmly to the President saying, “You stay where you are. We are under attack.”

Rice’s account of 911 brings up an excellent point about crisis management. There are times during a crisis that the leader is going to have a difficult time stepping back from the situation and seeing what is best for the company, organization or country.

image courtesy of Queens University of Charlotte

When in crisis it is important to think clearly, quickly and effectively plan ahead for multiple types of occurrences. I know that I have even had to sell crisis to my executives in order for them to understand the magnitude.
Although Rice did not divulge the rest of her conversation with the President it is plausible to think that she presented the problem for Bush by explaining that due to the level of attacks and the targets he, and therefore the perception of the US, was in danger. This technique of presentation is called framing. By framing the crisis in this manner, Rice was able to sell Bush on the idea that DC was not the place for him to be because of the terrorist attacks.

If we could speculate, I would also suggest that she followed up by explaining the importance of him being able to remain in command during this difficult time. She probably went so far as to describe the uncertainty of when and where other attacks would occur and the immediate need to evacuate all major buildings in Washington, DC. By providing the dimensions of the crisis in this manner she was able to sell the appropriate course of action to the President; despite it potentially hindering his effectiveness. In doing so Rice aided in preserving the perception that our country would prevail even in time of great and significant crisis.

In order to ensure that crisis are managed effectively are there ever times where you had to be firm with your executives? Perhaps, you have even had to sell your executives on a crisis?  Please share…

Read More in the Crisis Communication Series:

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