There is an amazing story unfolding in Canada, which has received remarkably little play in the United States (I suspect because of the election madness). An outbreak of listeria linked to a Maple Leaf meatpacking plant in Canada killed at least 11 people in August and made many others extremely ill. You might think that such a horrible thing would lead to widespread anger against the company and to the certain demise of Maple Leaf. But -- at least so far -- both the reputation of the company and its CEO, Michael McCain have remained intact because McCain has so openly accepted blame for the deaths (see this article and this one ), spoken so clearly about why they happened, and the difficulties of repairing the problem. And he has done so in way the conveys genuine compassion -- and personal pain and guilt as well.
Anyone interesting in how to lead during a crisis can learn something from this horrible tragedy. The CEO's grace and unminced words have impressed many in Canada, and I expect this case will take a place next to Johnson & Johnson's famous response to the Tylenol poisonings in the 1980s. In fact, the Canadian press is already making the comparison here.
Of course, this story isn't over yet, and it is impossible to predict what new facts may emerge. But so far CEO McCain is doing one of the hardest things that any CEO can do, and doing so with grace, and without pointing fingers at others.
P.S. Here are a few snippets from YouTube of his speech, including this one; I am looking for a longer version, as when I heard his speech and Q & A on the CBC, I was touched and impressed with demeanor and grasp of the facts. Also, the Maple Leaf website provides impressive no-nonsense information as well.