When one talks about crisis, one need not go beyond two of the greatest movies that deal with Crisis Management. “Apollo 13” shows how a team came together to save 3 astronauts stranded in space, while “Thirteen Days” gives us a glimpse of how the then U.S. President John F. Kennedy dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis despite all odds stacked against him. I can summarise the key learning points from the leadership styles exhibited in these movies:
1. Have A Clear Goal
The leaders in both movies had a clear goal in mind. In “Apollo 13”, as soon as they realised that they will not be able to land the 3 astronauts on the moon, the entire ground crew was focussed only on getting the 3 astronauts back safely. This helped everyone focus their energy towards getting the desired result. In “Thirteen Days”, John F. Kennedy and his team were focused on getting a non-militaristic solution to the crisis, even though everyone else told them that none exists.
2. Stand your ground
- Both Gene Kranz (Flight Director, Apollo 13) and John F. Kennedy did not deviate from their own ideals and philosophies. When Gene asked the ground crew to do something virtually impossible, he ensured they did it against all odds, and supported them till the end. Kennedy and his team did now bow down to pressure from the U.S. Military, took a firm stand against war, and eventually came up with a solution that prevented World War 3!
3. Do not give up
This is the most important characteristic required for any leader in the midst of a crisis. Both Kennedy and Gene did not give up despite the odds being stacked against them. It was their determine and steadfast nature that motivated their team to give their best to solve whatever crisis they were in. Despite immense pressure, they kept calm and continued to do what they knew was the right thing to do, and that gave their team the much-needed confidence to pursue a solution.