In times of crisis: lessons from Abbott’s leadership of MH17

In times of crisis, remain calm and rely on your planning. That’s the message for senior public servants in the wake of the federal government’s handling of the MH17 disaster.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been praised in recent days for his leadership in handling the MH17 disaster. But what qualities are desirable in a public sector leader during an emergency?

“Take a Bex and lie down.” That’s the blunt advice from corporate advisor Graeme Samuel.

“Remain calm,” the former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission head (and editorial adviser to The Mandarin) said. “Don’t react to media commentary, because it tends to be overblown, and at times will push you to be taking a course of action not desirable in the long run. Be sympathetic where people have suffered loss and keep your eye on the main game and the long term outcome.

“I like to make a mental decision tree — examine the current situation and look at the outcome I want to achieve. And say to myself: ‘what are the steps that need to happen, and what are the roadblocks?'”

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