“To perceive is to suffer” – Aristotle
One of the greatest tools, if not the greatest tool, in a leader’s tool box is empathy. It allows a leader to see, hear, and feel what others feel; allowing that leader the ability to effectively communicate with their team or anyone else. This tool is most effective in a crisis situation where most people aren’t sure what they should do or even say. Empathy allows a leader to see what is truly going on and to speak to the emotions of their listeners.
This is where, in my opinion, Mr. Munoz has room to grow. His initial statement was one of distance both from the incident and the public’s perception of the incident. Regardless of all the other factors, a leader must understand how others feel. It is my opinion, based on his initial statement, that Mr. Munoz did not have this understanding; he should have thought through how the customer who was dragged off the plane felt, how the other three customers who were voluntold felt, how those witnessing the incident in person felt, how those who were watching the video online felt, all of this before he crafted and gave his statement – not because United was in the wrong, but because the responsibility to manage and maintain the company’s image and effectively their profits during this time stops with him!
Had Mr. Munoz placed himself in all of these positions (again, I’m assuming he did not) and allowed himself to feel what others felt, he undoubtedly would have crafted a different initial statement and not been under such scrutiny. To make matters worse, Mr. Munoz’s follow-up statement seems more reactive than genuine; there is a sense of damage control felt in between the breaths it takes to read them. When we truly empathize with others who are suffering, our words focus more on them then they do ourselves – have you read Mr. Munoz’s follow up statements to the incident?