It goes without saying that the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan – and their ongoing, horrendous aftermath – are about as close to the definition of ‘crisis’ as you can get. I, and pretty much everyone I know, was absolutely glued to the screen in horror when the news broke. Whether it’s the environment or just the way the media reports these things, it really feels as though there’s been a glut of catastrophes like the Tohuku quake in recent years. Cyclone Nargis in Burma, last year’s earthquake in Haiti, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – countless thousands of lives lost, hundreds of thousands more made homeless and destitute, unimaginable damage to civic infrastructure.

One thing that really has stood out with the Japan crisis, though, is the unprecedented, as far as I can recall, way in which the country’s leaders have been praised – or at least not openly attacked – for their handling of the situation. It would be churlish, if accurate, to argue that the government of the world’s third largest economy is naturally better placed to deal with this kind of disaster than the third-world counties I mentioned above. I’m also keen to avoid some of the slightly stereotypical assumptions that’ve been thrown around about Japanese stoicism in the face of calamity.

But it is worth thinking about how different leadership styles can lead to utterly different outcomes in hard times. Now it could be that it’s just my turn to stereotype – but I think it’s fair to say that ‘traditional’ leadership models in twentieth-century capitalist society have focused on the big, bold solutions: telling people what to do, taking snap decisions that have immense consequences – leading from above, in other words. It’s that kind of energy that the Lumina system characterises as red (for obvious reasons!).

By contrast, I’d describe the qualities displayed by Japan’s government in the past couple of weeks as leaning much more towards the ‘blue’ (calm, detailed – having a plan) and the ‘green’ (empathetic, consensus-based) edges of the Lumina mandala. (If you’re not sure what that means, click here to take the test.) Now compare how they’ve acted, and the international response to their actions, to the metaphorical beating George W. Bush took over Hurricane Katrina. He badly misread the situation, and came across as clueness at best and an uncaring bully at worst.

But I’m not suggesting that either one of these approaches, or any of the myriad others in between, is inherently better or worse than the other. Look at Churchill, for example – hardly known for being a people person, and I’m not going to argue that he wasn’t the man for the job in 1940! But the important lesson is that different situations call for different approaches. That’s why it’s important to recognise your own reactions to a crisis, whether it’s a minor emergency or a huge one like that facing the citizens of Japan; and to think about how you can play to your strengths as well as the particular needs of the situation in your approach to leadership.

Let your true colours shine through. Click here for more on Lumina Spark