Updated: Jan 17
I posted a version of this on LinkedIn on Thursday 9 January 2020. At the time many communities in Australia were battling fierce bushfires which had razed over 1200 houses forcing people to seek safety on beaches as skies turned black.
Mr Morrison was called out for being slow to respond (he was on holiday in Hawaii at the time) and was subject to widespread criticism when he did by trying to justify his absence and the Australian government's slow response.
Understandably, when he did visit the fire-grounds people responded with anger, including some who refused to shake his hand. In one instance Mr Morrison appeared to take a person's hand in a forced handshake.
Some will see all of this as mere political criticism. However, it struck me that he had missed an opportunity to create a stronger more favourable response. And now the lesser narrative is stamped on people's memories.
Dear Mr Morrison,
I understand that a crisis is a difficult time for any leader. Here are some thoughts about how the best leaders respond.
It is never about the leader
Ask what people need and commit to act immediately.
Be present, offer reassurance and don’t interfere
Empathise, don’t assume you know how people feel
Don’t critique or criticise; and
Most importantly, offer hope
The above requires courage, humility and discipline. Be the leader people need.