In a time of crisis, leadership can be a rare but an extraordinary thing to see . Briefly discussed last week, a prime example of this was the case of Cantor Fitzgerald, the US company that lost the most employees in 9/11. Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 out of 960 US employees in the terrorist attacks that day. However, within two days after 9/11 Cantor Fitzgerald was open and operating, trying to put back together everything that had been destroyed.
How was this possible? Due to the leadership of Cantor Fitzgerald’s Chairman and CEO, Howard Lutnick. Lutnick, whose brother was among the 658 employees that perished, helped reestablish Cantor as a leader in their industry. He also helped provide for Cantor families by donating 25% of Cantor’s revenue for the five years after 9/11 to their families and paying for their healthcare for a decade. He also set up financial planning and investment services for these families to help get them back on their feet. Since 9/11 he has helped raise $180 million dollars for victims families as well as worthy charities.
Faced with this situation, Lutnick could have liquidated the company and considered everything lost. When things hit rock bottom what caused Lutnick to step up and lead his company out of this situation?
Was it his individual traits? During this time Lutnick showed empathy toward people’s situations and feelings. He cared and helped provide for families even after loved ones were gone. He showed courage in the face of chaos. However can this be accredited to his inborn traits, or due to the situation he was faced with? As Selznick says “leadership is a kind of work done to meet the needs of a social situation” (pg. 22) and McGregor recommends that it is “fruitful to consider leadership as a relationship between the leader and the situation” (pg. 182). Considering these points, would Lutnick have garnered so much acknowledgement as a model leader without such an event as 9/11 occurring? Also, considering leadership as a relationship not only with the situation but also among the followers, does Lutnick’s success as a leader during this tragic time reflect the fact that he had “effective followers” (Kelley, pg. 196)? The people that showed up to the office two days after this tragedy were truly committed employees who were courageous and weren’t afraid to take on the extra work and challenges in this hard situation. Burn’s states that “leaders and followers are engaged in a common enterprise; they are dependent on each other, their fortunes rise and fall together” (pg. 426). Lutnick and his followers were devoted toward a common goal, keeping the company afloat not just for their jobs, but to preserve the company in memory of the deceased. They were living these tragedies together. It would have been impossible for Lutnick to turn everything around by himself. His followers played an important role in his strength and success during this time.In our world of terrorist attacks, failing economies and tragic natural disasters, it is important to understand the capabilities and roles of leaders in crisis situations. By doing this, we can ultimately understand as leaders or followers ourselves how to be more effective in producing change and favorable results.