There was a newspaper article this morning about Michael McCain, who is CEO of Maple Leaf Foods. For those that are not familiar with Maple Leaf, its' luncheon meat was linked to the deaths of 21 people in Canada last year due to a bacteria that was present. As CEO of Maple Leaf, Mr McCain made many good decisions after the crisis hit. We spend a lot of time blaming and criticizing leaders for the decisions they make, but not today. I want to praise Mr McCain for the way that he handled the crisis. Imagine the predicament, a food company linked to multiple deaths as a result of their food. This could have crippled the company. Instead, less than one year later, Maple Leaf has regained much of its reputation and it is still financially stable, although a little worse for wear. Not only that, but Mr McCain has taken this situation and used it to spearhead an initiative to increase the safety levels for all food manufacturers in Canada. When assessing the damage, Maple Leaf changed their internal safety and cleaning policies to not only meet government requirements, but to significantly exceed them. They are coming out of this crisis as the champions of higher food safety standards in Canada.
So what did Mr McCain do right as CEO of the organization? He made good decisions and exerted effective leadership:
- he immediately took responsibility for the crisis and made himself accountable for resolving it;
- he quickly developed a plan for dealing with the crisis including identifying the root cause and resolving it;
- he communicated publicly (through TV, radio and YouTube) the acknowledgement of the problem and the steps being taken to resolve it;
- he was transparent in his handling of questions and concerns;
- he became a champion for greater food safety standards for all companies across Canada.
This is what great leaders do, they accept accountability, they develop a plan to not only resolve the issue but to raise the bar for everyone and they communicate effectively and often. Mr McCain has maintained those characteristics throughout, which is not something that can be said for most of the leaders we have been reading about lately.