Five lessons for leaders from Mayor Bloomberg

feature-bloomberg-200While the impact of Hurricane Sandy in the US spread far and wide, the New York/New Jersey area took the worst hit. The scenes of flooding, fires and dangling construction crane were truly stunning.

In the run-up to the storm, a friend of mine wrote that we were likely to see lots of examples of leadership this week. She was certainly right. Some dramatic examples that come to mind are the US Coast Guard’s helicopter rescue of the HMS Bounty crew off North Carolina (see the video here) and New York City firefighters rescuing residents from a waterlogged inferno in Rockaway, Queens.

A less dramatic but equally visible example of leadership this week has come from New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg. With multiple press conferences before, during and after the storm, Bloomberg has kept his citizens informed and, in the process, given a seminar on how to do leadership communications in a crisis. If you haven’t seen one of the mayor’s press conferences, it’s worth a look to see how he does it. I’ve watched excerpts from a few of them today and read through some of the transcripts.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned about crisis communications from Mayor Mike:

1. Project quiet confidence

As I’ve written here before (long before Hurricane Sandy), leaders create the weather; not literally, obviously, but leaders influence the response of others by how they show up. In all of his briefings, Bloomberg showed up prepared, appropriately concerned and quietly confident that his extended team and his citizens would respond to the storm in the most effective way possible. His quiet confidence likely gave confidence to others in a challenging situation.

2. Be consistent and frequent

I don’t know the exact schedule that Bloomberg has had for his pressers but it looks like he was up for 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon on the days before, during and after Sandy. Establishing an operating rhythm for his communications enabled him to get his team’s messages out consistently. Keeping people informed helps keep them calm.

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