Merge's Blog

True leadership is defined in times of crisis

As many of you know, I’ve been following the Winter Olympics closely.  Well, you can’t blame me, not only are they in Canada, but I still have fond memories of volunteering for the 1988 Games in Calgary!  But I digress …

I watched the spectacular Opening Ceremonies last week, and as I sat through the stirring performances with which Canada welcomed the world, I couldn’t help but think about the devastating tragedy that had occurred earlier that day.  Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, died from fatal injuries that he sustained during a training run that afternoon.  Shortly before the Opening Ceremonies, I watched while IOC President Jacques Rogge and VANOC CEO John Furlong, both visibly upset, held a news conference and choked back tears as they attempted to give the press an update on what was known and what still remained to be investigated.  In the days since that difficult meeting, the Vancouver Olympics road sadly has continued to be rocky.  Certainly nothing as distressing as the death of an athlete, but other glitches, unfortunately, have continued to take over the media spotlight.  A malfunction in an ice-resurfacing machine interrupted the speedskating competition, a burst pipe flooded the luge track, unsafe ground conditions at the snowboarding site cancelled almost 30,000 tickets, and the erection of a chain-link fence around the Olympic flame created a public relations nightmare.  To top it all off, Whistler and Cypress Mountain are getting no snow!  Now you can’t blame Rogge and Furlong for the weather, but who would have thunk it?  Canada and a shortage of snow?  My point is that the organizers of the Vancouver Olympics have not had an easy time, yet what is interesting to me is how their top gun, John Furlong, has handled it.

Through it all, he has operated with a sense of openness and honesty – accepting responsibility for the problems (well, except the weather), willing to share information, and approaching issues with a readiness to investigate and find solutions.  Has he got it all right?  No, and at the end of the day, not everyone will be pleased with his answers.  But he definitely has demonstrated good leadership when it comes to communication, a willingness to accept responsibility, and a desire to do the right thing.  Your true character as a leader is determined not in times of good and plenty, but is defined instead by how you act and behave in times of crisis.  So far anyway, John Furlong gets a B+ for his efforts.  What do you think?

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