Leaders are Calming and Hopeful in Crisis

Sometimes leaders have to deal with crisis and controversy. Certainly it’s not a pleasant part of their job, but it’s none-the-less important. It takes integrity to stand up and do or say what’s right, even if it’s unpopular.

Leading with Hope

That was the case with the 9/11 terrorist attack. People were shaken and stunned. One study found that 90% of American adults exhibited symptoms of stress following the attack, and 44% displayed substantial amounts. That week, church attendance grew 6% as people sought answers and questioned their futures.

My son lived in NYC during 9/11. He explained that just a few months later several colleagues changed their careers, with many going into nonprofit or church work. It wasn’t an easy time for President Bush, the heads of the NYC Police and Fire Departments, Pastors and Rabbis or any leader. Yet, the crisis demanded that they step up and bring a sense of calm and hope to people they served.

Prominent NYC Pastor Tim Keller commented about 9/11,

“…We have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In scripture we have the promise of resurrection…the restoration of the life we lost…(Shortly) after 9/11, I was diagnosed with cancer and treated successfully…the future resurrection…was my real medicine.”

Keller explained further that in Tolkien’s Return of The King…after the ring is destroyed, Sam wakes up (resurrection-like) thinking he and his friends are dead. He discovers everyone is alive. He exclaims: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead…I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” 

Keller concluded, “The answer is YES…If the resurrection is true, then…Everything sad is going TO COME UNTRUE.”

Taking Action Based on Fact not Fiction

In light of hope, we should be better equipped to deal with crisis and sadness when they emerge. However, my “equipping” was certainly challenged during a recent incident. Specifically, it’s the overinflated, fabricated crisis where grown adults unjustly harassed and intimidated Covington Catholic High School students (CC). While media bullies quickly joined the barrage, their attacks lacked substance.

In fact, the students were there for a pro-life rally, which says a little something about their demeanor. Kids at pro-life rallies aren’t prone to initiate altercations, which should lead one to seek more information. However, very few did that. In fact, even when new information emerged shortly after the event, the boys continued to be harassed and demonized. Shamefully, that harassment was so grave that several boys and their families received death threats. Even our company received several nasty phone calls and emails. Why? Because we’d done some work for CC. We described that work on our website because we’re proud of our association with CC. It’s an outstanding school, and the criticism was irrational and out of control.

So is this Where America is Headed?

I hope not. Stopping it requires leaders who are willing to stand up and calm tension rather than ignite it. With the CC students, adults actually initiated their harassment and no other adults intervened. On sketchy information, the press took an adversarial position and developed a bogus story. However, if they desire any credibility at all, they need a bit more objectivity in their reporting. Unfortunately, once they saw those MAGA hats all objectivity was lost.

Objectivity can certainly be resurrected, but not when the only leaders around are kids. The CC students clearly represented themselves, their families and their school well. They maintained a non-combative demeanor and eventually walked away; would that more adults might model their behavior. If the press seeks credibility the formula is simple: lead with integrity, report accurately, stop the sensationalism, and (wishful thinking) maybe even try church!