It isn’t every day that you find yourself facing a hostage situation: an employee in your organisation has been kidnapped on your watch and is being held for ransom beyond the company’s available cash reserves.
The kind of crises that most business leaders face are often the result of ignorance or the economic atmosphere such as fraud, layoffs, or lawsuits.
They are far from matters of life and death, certainly allowing for more familiar leadership practices to kick in.
But not on that fateful day in 1988, when Swiss executive J.P. Mottu received a call relaying the harrowing events that had taken place: a young engineer had been kidnapped while on a work assignment in Columbia.
There were no best practices or a leadership manual to refer to, not even sound counsel. It was down to his own personal values and leadership instincts to manage a situation that no one else was willing to take responsibility for.
Like J.P. Mottu, many leaders do not have the privilege of being prepared before a crisis takes place. But through a collaboration between film director Edouard Getaz and former hostage negotiator and leadership expert George Kohlrieser, business leaders are now exposed to the kind of leadership dilemmas that J.P. Mottu had to face, through an immersive experience based on his true story and presented in cinematic-thriller style.
The InsideRisk experience
Together with a group of selected business leaders, I recently had the opportunity to experience InsideRisk for the very first time in Malaysia.
As the events of the story unfolded onscreen, our session moderator put us in the shoes of J.P. Mottu: probing us with questions that called for a deeper understanding of our values and belief systems and how they affect our decisions regarding people within our care.
What would you do, if there was no choice but to save a life by physically transporting a suitcase of cash into a country where the penalty is up to seven years in prison, if caught?
What about the ethical implications that come with indirectly supporting the business of extortion even if that wasn’t your intention? How do you determine the price of someone else’s life and negotiate the best possible figure for it?
What if you had to rely on a stranger to complete the job – do you judge their capability based on prior data provided or on the outcome of the task? What if he failed and you had to trust him again for the second time?
How responsible would you feel for making a call that didn’t result in a favourable outcome? At which point are you allowed to give up, and at what cost?
There seemed to be no right or wrong answers to these questions, adding more weight to our decisions as it reflected on the kind of leader each of us might be in a similar situation.
Honing your leadership skills
Leaders are often expected to be able to think on their feet in any given situation and be responsible for great decisions. The events that take place within InsideRisk show us why it’s so important to hone the art of framing the mind.
As a leader, we need to have the ability to change our perspective from a negative one to a positive one because the situation and real people depend on it. Leaders also have to understand what it means to truly exercise creative thinking and see problems as opportunities. We learned that if you’re afraid of failure, you will never truly be creative because the fear itself is what limits your mind.
n world that is said to be increasing in volatility, becoming more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous, ‘creative thinking’ can no longer be taken simply as a bonus skill on a resume.
It is a survival skill for anyone who intends to thrive and lead in a world that’s filled with challenging opportunities.
Understanding ourselves better
One of the most valuable takeaways from the immersive experience was being reminded that leaders are just people and people are imperfect.
Sometimes we don’t realise it but the emotional baggage that we carry from the past can have a profound effect on how we view the world, which often determines our approach to decision-making of any kind, in any situation.
InsideRisk presents a timeless narrative that begs the question – what are we allowing ourselves to be held hostage to, in our current situation today?
It invites us to humbly examine ourselves as we participate in a collective conversation that tests our capacity in seemingly impossible circumstances.
It puts the decision-making process in our hands, naturally giving us a clearer idea of the kind of person we are, and compelling us to think about the kind of leader we could be.
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