“Le Train d’Enfer” and the Derailing of Crisis leadership at Lac-Megantic
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January 01, 2019
Thunderbird School of Global Management
This case provides an inside glimpse into the unraveling of crisis management effectiveness at the hands of an organization’s leader. In the dark of night, a runaway train owned by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) jumped the track, setting off pools of fire that decimated the tranquility of the French-Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic. More than 1.5 million gallons of petroleum crude oil, spewed from 62 of the train’s tank cars, turned the town into an inferno. Forty-seven townspeople were incinerated. In the heart of town, homes and businesses were destroyed. Every crisis tests the mettle of its leaders. This case captures lessons of what not to do when representing your organization in crisis. The tragedy is a dramatic platform to explore and evaluate the extraordinary challenges that leaders encounter in crisis, from untangling causes and contributing factors attributable to their organization, to facing into the devastating impact. Through verbatim transcripts contained in the case and publicly-accessible videos, details are brought to light as they unfolded, including crisis leadership offenses of speculation, finger-pointing and cross-cultural insensitivity.
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“Le Train d’Enfer” and the Derailing of Crisis Leadership at Lac-Megantic
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