Strong leadership skills are never more important than during a crisis, and that includes staying connected with the people who make up an organization. First as the head of global sales for American Airlines and then with multiple executive search firms, Frank Morogiello learned a thing or two about the topic.
Throughout my career and life, I have been most fortunate to work with and enjoy what this great industry of travel has to offer. It’s all about people, and I believe in people and travel with all my heart.
Covid-19 is different than the financial crisis of 2008, 9/11, mad cow disease or SARS. It presents itself and continues to unfold without us knowing how deep it will go.
Rather than discussing fear and uncertainty, let’s focus on what matters. Let’s try to think about the very basics. How do you continue putting bread on the table and, literally, surviving? If we start at that point and work our way up from there, our attitudes will progressively improve.
So what do you do? What can you do? I don’t claim to have the answers but maybe I can suggest a way to frame the challenge. No matter what you do, do not play the role of the victim. Instead, figure out some kind of a war cry that you can get behind, and take as much control of everything that you can. Do this with acts of kindness and inclusion whenever you can, and invite and connect (virtually, for now) with your current and new network, family and friends. Support everyone that you can in every way you can. Your attitude is whatever you make it, and it is yours on everything you portray.
Leadership is exposed, for better or worse, when things go wrong. A mindset of clear, transparent communication and information, while genuinely caring for people, is and always will be most important. Relevant advice and accurate information, free from hidden agendas, is critical. Chief executives making high-impact, critical decisions that can’t be reversed often stand alone among subordinates, service providers and even board members (although not among peers). But this happens at all levels.
The real value proposition at a time like this is something people need but may be difficult to get in the current work environment: personal and open discussion. People need candid, one-on-one dialogue on whichever topics are important to them. The reward is knowing that you are an invaluable resource at a crucial time and that you will ultimately help our nation, the world and businesses everywhere experience a quick and strong recovery.
I think everyone has a hero or heroine, or someone who has influenced them and inspired them. These are typical job interview questions: “Who is your hero?” “Who would you emulate?” My hero growing up in Brooklyn was my Canarsie High School football coach. He would cite Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” I have carried the quote with me all my life, and I think it fits these times as well as any:
“To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”
This coach was also my dad.
The airline and travel industries are invariably on the front lines during times of financial crisis, terrorism and global epidemics. This pandemic affects everybody. We are all in it together. Let people know you are there for them.
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