The impact of a communication void following a crisis

In the past week Auckland has seen a crisis unfold in real time, under the guidance of what has widely been described as an absence of leadership.

The opportunity for our mayor to make a strong impact on our hearts and minds, (think Ashley Bloomfield during Covid) has passed. Whether you’re an Ashley fan or not, you would have to agree that his communication during an international health crisis, the likes of which the world had never seen, was a masterclass, and Ashley had no “guide book”. I’ll share a post on the importance of clear communication during a high stakes situation at a later date. I’ve lead teams through plenty, for now I want to discuss what happens following absence of strong leadership during a crisis.

It’s about more than just the lack of confidence, which has been created in the aftermath of last Friday’s events, the lack of trust has an ongoing impact which our mayor may never recover from. Following the initial doubling down and defensiveness towards media and whomever tried to challenge the inaction of the Auckland Council we now have a public apology and with it the overcorrection of the flow of information regarding potential upcoming weather and storm related events. And this overcorrection, juxtaposed against the original dearth of information is almost as bad, because nobody trusts it. Aucklanders are well aware that it’s just the pendulum swinging back the other way, and consequently it’s met with scepticism and derision. As Aucklanders our internal narrative goes something like “well how can we trust anything they say now?”

In the fullness of time when the debriefs and inevitable reviews are completed it’s likely that elements of the Auckland City Council Readiness and Response will have been found wanting. Inevitably there will be areas were improvements will be required. Taking ownership early of these will be essential for trust and confidence in the city’s leadership.

The Mayor now has the opportunity to lead and support the recovery efforts, bringing about the immediate, medium and long term regeneration and enhancement of our damaged city. We want to be assured that the councils leadership are applying the resources in a way that enables Aucklanders to feel like they are truly being lead.

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