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Leading in a Crisis - Practice Six

Lou Gerstner's Book
Learn the Lessons and Transform

Practice Six for the leader is to learn the lessons and transform. This is the time to rethink your industry strategy. What may have worked in the past may not work in the future. Even if it could work, it may not be as effective as a reimagined strategy. Take a hard look at your underperformers. During Jack Welch's tenure at GE, he had an edict of being number #1 or #2 in a given segment. Otherwise, they would depart that industry. Stated differently, he played to the strengths of the company. Lou Gerstner played to IBM's global strengths and saved the company from bankruptcy nearly three decades ago. How can you reshape your industry to play to your strengths?

Consider these facts from a national business article. Amazon took over retail without owning any stores. Uber and Lyft took over the taxi industry without owning a single car. Apple and Spotify commandeered music with no stores or artists signed to their name. Netflix has taken over movies and TV without ever showing a single movie in a theater. LinkedIn has taken over job searching and hiring. Yes. They are titans now. But this was not always the case. They each reshaped the industry to play to their strengths and became industry leaders by redefining the industry. Of course, Apple was already a titan. How each will respond to the current crisis remains to be seen.

Make vital investments during the crisis to survive and thrive. You will need to divest in some areas and double-down your investment in growth areas - areas that will become your new normal - your new or enhanced strategic competitive advantage. To make this a reality, keep key people focused on winning. As challenging and gut-wrenching as a crisis can be, it does present an opportunity to create your organization’s image as the industry leader. By developing rigorous execution plans, your entity can better serve and support the communities in which it operates while responding to the needs of its clients and constituents.

Develop sustainable systems to support your new or enhanced strategies. Design systems that allow the organization to reach the big picture goals, are aligned with its priorities, have clear metrics, are geared towards action, stimulate efficiency, and foster consistency by having repeatable processes. For example, schools can put in systems that support individualized learning that can be delivered effectively remotely, in-person, or a blended format. Part of the learning and transformation is becoming nimble with the ability to adjust on the fly. If an elephant can learn to dance, surely your organization can learn to become agile.

On a more personal note, be teachable. Leading through a crisis is extremely difficult. There are landmines that others can help you identify. Who is your mentor? Who are you listening to? What books and articles are you reading? Which webinars and classes are you attending personally? Have you connected with industry consultants? Most of all, reflect daily, weekly, and monthly upon your experiences. What are the key lessons learned that can help you navigate future crises should they occur? Mistakes will be made. Get used to it. Learn from them. And get on with it. It is time to learn and transform. Our attitude toward our mistakes will determine our altitude after the mistakes.

“He who makes no mistakes makes no progress.” ~ Teddy Roosevelt

“The person who is incapable of making a mistake is incapable of anything.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

That's it for now. Your candid feedback is both welcomed and appreciated. Please share your thoughts on Practice Six. At Apogee, we work with entities to strengthen their pipeline of leaders. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, we specialize in helping others lead through change and we offer premier leadership training programs and experiences. Find out more at

Until the next time...

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