Crisis Leadership in Japan

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    Quake leaves residents looking to Prime Minister

    After an initial response slowed by the sheer magnitude of the disaster, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has stepped up to his role as the head of crisis management for the beleaguered country. Following yet another explosion at the Fukushima power plant, Kan took the reins, as described in this quote from a National Post article by Peter Goodspeed:

    Within hours, the Japanese PM had announced he was personally taking control of crisis management at Fukushima. He appointed a committee of government and TEPCO officials to report directly to him; had the transport ministry impose a no-fly zone for 30 kilometres around the badly damaged plant; and ordered Japan’s Self-Defence Forces to shift their attention to relief, instead of rescue.

    Later, at a nationally televised news conference, where he spoke to reporters while dressed in a powder-blue emergency services jump-suit, Mr. Kan acknowledged the radiation peril and called for calm.

    “There is a danger of even higher radiation levels,” he said.

    “We are doing everything we can to contain the leakage. I know that people are very worried, but I would like to ask you to act calmly.”

    Much like the head of a company, a country’s leader is looked to in times of crisis for guidance and as an example of how to behave. With the immediate threat of nuclear meltdown and the task of reconstruction lying beyond that, Kan has a long road to travel, but by remaining strong and taking charge, he encourages his people to do the same.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]