September 11: In Memoriam

Most Americans have the same hollow pit in their stomach when they think about 9/11 as they did for JFK’s assassination a generation earlier. I was in London that fateful day watching in disbelief, then could not return to my family for over a week.

What stuck with me the most during those early days, however, were the heroic acts of leadership by a number of executives trying desperately to boost spirits and focus on returning to normality.  I interviewed a number of people and collected my thoughts in a Harvard Business Review article that was published a bit over a year later.  The article was republished this spring in the Japanese version of Harvard Business Review as well. It’s nice to know that some positive lessons can still be taken away from something so tragic.  I hope you enjoy reading the article again or for the first time.  Drop me a line to let me know what you think.

Paul Argenti

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2 responses to “September 11: In Memoriam”

  1. Chris Davis says :

    Professor – Thank you for reposting and remembering; I lost a friend that day, and many more in the subsequent conflicts world wide. The leadership opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have in the Coast Guard left me, incrementally, with some moments of clarity. As an afloat commander, I’ve come to believe my job is to conceptualize an authentic vision, communicate that vision in a balanced fashion, and set my lieutenants upon execution of that vision.

    From that point, I preach that the commander needs to make about 12 decisions a year aboard a typical patrol boat in typical times. When I find myself dictacting a clear decision more than 1 or 2 times a month, I KNOW I’m micromanaging my capable and independent sailors. But in crisis, the commander must be 1) prepared 2) capable 3) willing and 4) positioned to serve as a node for men and women who have hopefully come to see him/her as worth following during an aftermath that has personal and professional impact.

    Would you agree that much of the work of crisis communication is done long before the crisis itself? You must prepare, ensure capability, position yourself via consistent communication of your strategic principle…the leader is a brand in himself/herself. I see that in the immediate, decisive, authentic response from the executives in your opening…and love to see their efforts described as heroic. The ethical businessman is as strategically important as the talented field general for his country.

    All the best,

    C Davis, T13

    • Paul A. Argenti says :

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that preparing for crisis is key. In fact our discussion about Strategic/Not important highlighted how you can prepare for crises. We will get back to this discussion again when we do the Body Shop case. And the responsible manager, whether in the battlefield or on Wall Street, is strategically critical right now for the good of our country.

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