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Leadership in Crisis: Emotional Challenges

Christine Ourmières-Widener
Former CEO at Flybe and Member of Board of Governors at IATA

Learning outcomes

  • The importance of staying mentally and physically healthy during high-pressure moments

Executive Bio

Christine Ourmières-Widener

Former CEO at Flybe and Member of Board of Governors at IATA

Christine was the CEO of Flybe, which was Europe’s largest regional airline, from 2017-19 and has over 30 years experience in the airline industry. She started her in 1988 at Air France before joining Amadeus inu 1992 as Director of Sales and Marketing in Europe for 4 years. In 1998, Christine rejoined Air France as VP, Sales before making her way to General Manager of Air France KLM for UK and then CEO of CityJet, the regional airline subsidiary of Air France KLM. Christine is also on the Board of Governors at the International Air Transport Association. Read more

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Interview Transcript

How did you deal with the emotional challenge, throughout the crisis?

This is the most difficult one. I think I realized that, after the crisis, when it took me a few months to recharge. After almost a year, I’m not sure it’s gone. The emotional impact, depending on the history of people and where they are coming from, you react differently. I think people were really devastated during the crisis but I was surprised by my resilience. It’s something that you only discover when you go through it. I think the resilience I had was only built by my education, my past – because I had to deal with crises in the past – and also my family, who were there and who accepted, without asking any questions, were supporting me and my friends. I think you need to be surrounded by a team, but also by your family, if you want to survive.

In addition to that, you need to be very fit for purpose, meaning that you to be healthy and have a level of fitness to deal with the crisis. When you don’t sleep, you don’t really eat properly anymore and you have to be asking all the right questions to your team, 24 hours a day, but also try to answer the questions, as much as possible. You need to be 200%. I don’t have a recipe, to be honest. I’ve seen very strong people being very impacted during the crisis. I think you always learn through the crisis. The obvious answer is, don’t be alone. If you’re alone and you think you can go through a crisis, it’s impossible. You need to be surrounded.

Crises, in the end, are really down to emotion and feelings because when you lose the emotional protection, because you’re exhausted, you have difficulty controlling your emotions and that’s what you have to expect. You need to be surrounded by people who will be there to support you and to give you love. It’s all about emotions, in the end, how we can get through it.

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