This commentary analyzes how Oprah’s handling of the sex abuse scandal at her South African school is a text book case of how to handle an organizational crisis:
1. Get out in front of the issue — privately and aggressively separate fact from allegation
2. Act quickly within the organization
3. Communicate with internal constituencies
4. Meet the media and answer questions
Strong leaders step up when the heat is on and the tough media questions are fired right between the eyes. Yet corporate America is littered with CEOs and other top managers who either duck, hide or try to sweep a serious problem or crisis under the rug when the media starts banging on their door. But that never works.
Enter talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, who conducted a brilliant press briefing this week to answer every hard and pointed question about the sex abuse scandal at the elite South African school called the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy. Fifteen girls at the school claimed that they were sexually molested by a “dorm matron.”