Moments of crisis can be defining for a leader. It is vital for a leader to respond to crisis with clarity, strength, and clear direction. In recent history, there is few greater examples than the hours of September 11, 2001. As horrific images of planes flying into buildings, people jumping from burning windows, and pillars of American strength crumbling to the ground on thousands of New Yorkers, the American people were distraught, disheveled, and afraid in the new reality they found themselves in. As day turned to night throughout the country, President George W. Bush addressed the nation from the Oval office and tried to bring comfort to weary Americans who were in shock.
Crisis management may be the most demanding task of leadership (Hackman & Johnson, 2013, p. 410), and on September 11 this proved to be true for President Bush (Keen, 2011). 9/11 would be classified as a terrorist attack (Hackman & Johnson, 2013, p. 411), and in the address that evening President Bush sought to portray strength, calm, and resolve to the American people (Keen, 2011). As he says through televisions across the country, “Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared…Our first priority is… to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world” (Bush, 2001). In the days and weeks after this address, and the continued solidarity Bush established that evening, was reflected in the resolve of the American people in their work, homes, sporting events, and public demonstrations (Blake, 2013).
One brief critique of the speech is the seeming disconnect between the emotions of Bush’s words and what he portrayed to the camera. Incongruent body language is a common mistake of transformational leaders, and in this particular instance seemed to appear in an otherwise powerful speech.
What factors could have contributed to Bush’s emotional disconnect?
Blake, A. (2013, April 24). The 7 best moments of George W. Bush’s presidency. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/04/24/the-5-best-moments-of-george-w-bushs-presidency/
Bush, P. G. W. (2001, September). 9/11 Address to the Nation. Public Address, Washington, D.C.
Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: A Communication Perspective (6 edition). Waveland Press, Inc.
Keen, J. (2011, September). Bush on the Events of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath. USA Today. Dallas, TX. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2011-09-09/Bush-on-the-events-of-Sept-11-2001-and-their-aftermath/50328042/1