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CEO of the year handles PR disaster

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Say a deadly listeria outbreak is traced back to a food plant you own. How do you handle the crisis?

CEO Michael McCain of Maple Leaf Foods faced that challenge last year when an outbreak of listeria led to several deaths. Despite the grim events, McCain was named CEO of the year for 2008 by the Canadian Press. Here’s why:

He acted swiftly, recalling all products and shutting down the plant for decontamination.

He publicly took full responsibility on behalf of his company. Rather than relying on a well-groomed spokesperson, he delivered “deepest and sincere condolences” to families without mincing words.

He exuded compassion, authenticity and integrity. Even one of the people suffering from listeriosis praised McCain, saying, “The leadership and effort taken by Mr. McCain ... are truly commendable.”

McCain proved the company’s ethical mettle and preserved its reputation.

—Adapted from "Maple Leaf Foods listeria lawsuits settled," Tiffany Crawford, National Post
 

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