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Dig deep to follow example of miners' boss.

THE image that organisations present of themselves counts for nothing if they can't back it up with the actions they take.

Many invest heavily in brand and image, but this is all undone when they refuse to apologise or admit error for decisions they have made that are publicly exposed.

Saying sorry is never easy and in the corporate world legal advisors will always urge against admitting error as those few simple words could cost a company a great deal of money. But how much more money is lost as a result of customer rage and damage to reputation by passing the buck or hiding from the truth? We all make mistakes and being honest actually increases our reputation and the respect others hold for us.

Invariably, the person whose role it is to protect the reputation of a business is the CEO. The spotlight shines brightest on the CEO when reputation is at stake and it is at times like these that they have to show true leadership and take decisive actions - even if that is to say 'Sorry, we were wrong and we are going to put it right'.

As the leader, every word is picked up. Every decision made is analysed by stakeholders - employees, customers and suppliers, to see if it impacts on them. One very well-known CEO believes that a key characteristic of a successful CEO is to be insensitive - that tough decisions have to be made and there is no room for sentiment.

I take the point, but CEOs also have to understand their stakeholders, judge how they feel at any given time and, most importantly of all, they need to be great communicators.

They have to carry people with them even if the road they are going down is not that popular. As long as people understand why you are going down that route and the impact it will have, then you have a fair chance they will at best be supportive and at worst understanding.

The problem is when communication is very poor or non-existent as it is then that leadership appears absent.

That is why I must pay tribute to a true leader and communicator who can best be described as an underground hero.

Luis Urzua was the foreman whose levelheadedness, assuredness and leadership helped keep the miners under his charge focused on survival during their 70-day underground ordeal in Chile.

It was his presence of mind that kept the men alive. His strategy was based on the premise that a leader gives priority to the team. He instilled a sense of order and discipline among his men who, at the outset of the ordeal, were overcome by desperation - and at all times he kept communicating and listening.

Thankfully, business leaders in the North East will never face a challenge of such an epic proportion, but they do need to be constantly aware that the people around them are not just expecting them to make decisions.

They want them to be inspirational.

Daniel O'Mahoney is co-founder of Newcastle public relations agency Bradley O'Mahoney


COMMUNICATION IS KEY PR chief Daniel O''Mahoney
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 28, 2010
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