A Tale of Two Leaders

There have been various national and international incidents over the holidays of varying gravity – the Air Asia plane crash, the Greek ferry fire and subsequent tugboat deaths, the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the UK, and transport issues at London rail stations – that remind us of many important things. Things like the fragility of health and life, the importance of family, the benefit of appreciating the present moment, and the gratitude for our daily lives.

These situations also illustrate some lessons for leadership. I don’t know these individuals myself, but by looking at some media coverage we can contrast the handling of two of those incidents by their CEOs – CEO Tony Fernandes of Air Asia with regards to the plane crash and CEO of UK Network Rail Mark Carne at the train disruption caused by overrunning maintenance work at London King’s Cross station.

Show Up and Be with the People – at the first sign of an issue with Air Asia, Tony Fernandes was on a plane to Indonesia and he has been with the various groups of people every day since (the families of the passengers privately, his employees, government and safety officers). Even the Indonesian president has met the families at the crisis centre privately and addressed the nation publicly. In contrast, Mark Carne showed up in London many days later; at the crucial time of the intense disruption there was no spokesperson to help. 

Apologize if your product or service has not delivered – Tony Fernandes apologized when the plane disappeared and then more so when the debris was found. It felt heartfelt and genuine. Mark Carne spent more time saying as CEO he was responsible and defending the difficulty of the new position he first took on over 10 months ago than saying sorry for the inconvenience to travellers. Perhaps if he had shown up on the day the crisis began his words may not have been so scrutinized in the media. 

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Tony Fernandes has been seen and heard on TV, radio, Twitter, Facebook and in person. He’s been sharing what information he was able to share, and when there was nothing he was emotive and showed that he cared. Some people affected by the missing Malaysian airliner said that the difference in communication they have seen between their situation and the Air Asia one has been dramatically better. The complaints during the network rail situation were about lack of information, either to people on site or to those that were joining the queues through the day.

Proactively Give People Assistance – Air Asia flew some family members from Singapore to Indonesia at the moment they wanted to travel, arranging accommodations and such. It took Network Rail hours to pay for taxis to transport elderly and sick people standing outside in the cold in the queues at Finsbury Park.

It’s so sad that this holiday saw so many incidences of loss and suffering, my heart goes out to all those affected and I count my blessings.

What lessons will you take from the holidays?

Anne Taylor at Directions Coaching is a successful life coach, who offers executive coaching and individual personal coaching in London. For more information on her services please call on 02031516830.