John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President

By John A. Barnes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Crisis Management: Be the Coolest Man in the Room

“He was so completely convinced of the rightness of his course that
there was no evidence whatsoever of strain or of nervousness or of
tension. … [T]his, in itself, was tremendously inspiring because
when you are in a period of real crisis you look, then, to your leader-
ship. And if your leader is nervous and upset and tense, this trans-
lates itself to everyone else and you in time translate that feeling to
other people.”

—REPRESENTATIVE HALE BOGGS,
ON THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING BRIEFED BY
JOHN F. KENNEDY DURING THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

There is probably no aspect of leadership more important than the ability to manage a crisis. When crises arise, as they always will, leaders must stay focused on the main task at hand. You can't allow yourself to get distracted by side issues. You must project calm in the face of the crisis, so your people will be calm, too. That way you'll get valuable input and feedback from your advisers, although you must sift through sometimes-contradictory advice to reach your final decisions. And once you've come to a decision on how to handle the crisis, you must be firm and confident in your course of action.

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