Thursday, June 17, 2010


In a time of crisis, the public expects its leader to be able to step up and, well, lead. A lot has been written on President Obama's failure to lead during the Gulf Oil Spill crisis and much of that criticism is well-founded. But the first step in leading during a crisis is to recognize that you have a crisis to begin with. This got me thinking about a scene from one of my favorite movies, Apollo 13, in which flight director Gene Kranz (played perfectly by Ed Harris) sets the tone for management of the crisis right from the outset:

Kranz would several times throughout the rescue effort have to focus his people on the fundamental problems facing them. He was the one who coined the phrase "Failure is not an option" and made that his team's slogan. He also focused his team on the goal which was getting the astronauts home and didn't get caught up in assigning blame for the accident. He knew there would plenty of time to sort that out later on.

President Obama could learn a thing or to from Gene Kranz. Perhaps if he had handled the oil spill the same way Kranz handled the explosion aboard Apollo 13 there would be a lot less oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.