World Affairs

What We Can Learn From Leaders in Times of Crisis

February 24, 2021  • Aspen Ministers Forum

In recent months, leaders around the world have been forced to grapple with a series of threats to domestic and international stability. From the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout to populism and escalating cyberattacks, the need for effective leadership at this moment is critical. But as dire as the situation seems today, we have been here before.

The Leadership in Action video series—created by the Aspen Ministers Forum in partnership with the Bertelsmann Foundation North America—centers on leadership in times of crisis. Using the expertise of select members of the AMF and the research and multimedia tools of the Bertelsmann Foundation North America, this series provides an innovative and dynamic visual platform to explore the perspective of those who shaped historic events.

The first season of this series is comprised of three episodes:

Episode 1: Russian Cyber-Attack on Estonia

In the premiere episode, former Estonian Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand takes us back in time to the Russian cyber-attack against Estonia in 2007, one of the first operations of its kind, which resulted in the paralysis of Estonian banks, media outlets, and government institutions. This episode provides a cautionary tale for those searching for additional tools to combat modern-day warfare in cyberspace. The tactics may have changed over time, but the lessons endure.

Episode 2: Madeleine Albright on the US Response to the Conflict in Kosovo

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright returns to one of the defining moments of her career to reflect on the US intervention to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. From assessing the intentions of an unpredictable Serbian leader to managing the fallout from an accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, this installment tells the tale of high stakes geopolitical negotiations, overcoming adversity, and what it takes to find one’s voice.

Episode 3: George Papandreou on the Greek Financial Crisis

Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou takes us back to 2009, when Greece was on the brink of economic collapse due to the European debt crisis. This is a story about sacrifice, difficult choices, and national resilience against imposing odds. Papandreou’s account of this volatile period in Greek history goes beyond the day-to-day management of an existential threat to his country. He provides a master class in problem-solving, defending painful choices, and the value of honesty and transparency in government service, even if it means losing an election.

Launch Event

The public launch event for the Leadership in Action video series featured a conversation between former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou, and former Foreign Minister of Estonia Marina Kaljurand, moderated by Edward Luce, US national editor of the Financial Times.