Damar Hamlin Crisis and Lessons for School Leaders

A crisis can make or break a leader. Here are a few lessons school leaders can take from the recent Damar Hamlin incident.

  1. Lead with authenticity. When Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin went down on the field during the Jan. 2 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, coaches Zac Taylor and Sean McDermitt led with grace and strength. It was clear throughout their response they were focused first on Hamlin and second on their players. Their players and staff followed their lead without question because they have put in the hard work and taken the necessary steps leading up to this event to build rapport within their respective organizations. In times of crisis, the public needs strong leaders who can unite an organization and speak and move collectively. 
  1. Make swift decisions. Taylor and McDermitt made quick, people-first decisions at a time when the NFL wouldn’t. When the initial call was made to give players a 5-minute warm-up period before returning to the field, the coaches took the lead in consulting with one another and taking the steps they felt were necessary. This is what led to the suspension and eventual cancellation of the game. 
  1. Know the power of a call to action. During a crisis or emotional situation like this, most people simply want to help. Viewers and bystanders came together by taking advantage of the call to action provided – raising funds for Hamlin’s charity work. Nearly $9 million has been raised because someone provided a clear call to action that allowed people to feel as if they were part of the solution. 
  1. Maintain focus. Debate and conjecture have swirled in the wake of the NFL’s response to Hamlin’s incident but Taylor, McDermitt and their respective teams have never lost focus or succumbed to discussing rumors. Their undivided attention and focus on Hamlin’s health and their team’s progress in the remaining weeks of play is something to be applauded. 

Make sure you’re prepared for a crisis so you’re leaving behind the right kind of legacy. Need help? Contact us today! In the meantime, check out these other crisis communication lessons for school districts at large.

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