Stop the “Duck and Cover” Mentality: We Need Leadership to Conquer Today’s Business Challenges.

I have a couple of client situations that can only be defined as the highest of high stakes. My client companies—totally uninvolved with one another—are separately in the fight for their lives with respective business partners that has the potential to destroy all parties involved. Even if I were permitted to go into great detail, there’s not enough Blog or Twitter space to fully tell these complex stories. But these stories are very much related to many others plaguing businesses today: (a) accelerated trouble resulting from broader economic pressures, (b) lack of organizational expertise solving serious problems, (c) ineffective leadership, unable to master growing volatility.

More than ever before I’m asked the same question by a growing number of people: “how do we handle the mounting problems in our business, what should we read, where can we learn what to do?” While I always try to avoid giving off-the-cuff simple answers to complex questions, as I work with my clients to solve their apparently inexorable problems and get a deeper understanding of others’ business dilemmas, I believe the best reference guide for executives today may not come from the business library or business history at all.

Study The Cuban Missile Crisis from the fall 1962 when the world came absurdly close to a nuclear war. A combination of inexperience, fear, bravado, talking at rather than to other parties (particularly opposition), miscalculation, escalation (things looked absolutely bleak when a U2 plane was shot down over Cuba October 27th), solved by October 28th by brave leadership that allowed themselves to get past the posturing and find resolution.

I was too young to remember anything from those scary 14 days in October 1962, but I vividly remember the air raid drills we routinely conducted in elementary school…just in case. From what I am seeing lately, too many executives are dealing with today’s serious business challenges like the worst of the Cuban Missile Crisis moments and too many employees are doing a corporate version of “duck and cover” drills–when today’s business climate calls for leadership that is ready, willing and able to conquer today’s challenges.

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