In the classic crisis plan one thing is always constant: Never lie. The reason is really simple: Lie once and you lose all credibility. Simple fact — once credibility is lost, the ability to lead is gone too. And everything you say is in doubt
Recently the mayor of Las Vegas went on CNN and made a fool of herself. And while that clip made the social media rounds, it is linked to the point made above.
Leadership in a crisis needs to start at the top. Leadership in a crisis is like chess, you can’t just think of the current move — you have to think well ahead.
If there is no leadership at the top, then the lack of leadership leads to a lack of organizational cohesion. Things fall part quickly, and everyone tries to do their own thing. That leads to confusion and that leads to chaos. And that is how you get a big time mayor, left to her own understanding, to become a train wreck on CNN.
The truth of good communication is this. In a crisis a strong and decisive leader will get most people to fall into step with them. Much as when many political differences were set aside in December of 1941, setting aside political bickering was one way the nation won World War II. The same though was not there in 1930 around the Depression, which went on for a decade, and after World War I, which led to the US withdrawing from the post-war peace.
Unity is the key to success, and unity is won through vision and leadership. The worst thing a leader can do is lie. They cannot stand before a camera and make false claims, contradict facts, and give bad advice. It destroys the process of coming together and working in tandem. It confuses and puts people on separate paths, some leading to the wrong place. It takes a bad thing and makes it so much worse.
In a crisis you often get one shot, and you need to lead. You need to show hope, and you need to listen and show empathy to everyone as best you can.