Jamie Dimon beats back an investor attack on his command of two top jobs. Timothy Cook weathers a congressional assault on his company's reputation and motives.

In widely different theatres of engagement, the chief executives of JPMorgan Chase and Apple showed how leaders take charge, disarm attackers and reassure followers.

What leadership communication lessons are on display?

  1. Character counts. Dimon and Cook have common leadership ascension backgrounds. Each stepped into big shoes. Dimon in 2007 succeeded William Harrison, aggressive architect of the $30 billion merger that created Morgan Chase. Apple's Cook in 2012 had the challenge of the mantle left by the blazingly illustrious Steve Jobs. It takes a tough person, with character strong enough to pick up and carry the banner on his own terms.
  2. Personal preparation is vital. We don't know how much time Dimon or Cook spent with his communication counselor during the course of the threats to them and their companies. We have to think it was considerable because both men showed a substantial level of understanding and competence in the context, content and style or tone that shaped a positive communication outcome.
  3. Learn from others' mistakes. Dimon and his counselors know well the stories of rebuffed, retired or otherwise removed executives who were marginally honest or inartful dodgers of stakeholder and media attention. Cook and his CCO had but to look at the drudging of executives who sat at congressional witness tables, stiff and uncertain, unclear about behavior, and unaware that coming to DC in private jets and limos would be a problem.
  4. Remain calm, patient and good-humored. You are right Arthur, when crises build, cool heads communicate best. And, notable leader, it's frantic out there. It's not just the 24-hour news cycles. It's reacting at the speed of Twitter.

The most satisfying headline that the chief of JPMorgan Chase could read, signaling his grace and grasp, was shouted from the top of the May 21 Wall Street Journal: “Vote Strengthens Dimon's Grasp" – and the subhead grinned that not only is the CEO safe but now “Board Under Fire."

As for Cook, showing his calm at the end of the congressional turn, he had to be happy when the committee got off the tax attack and Senator John McCain said he had only one last question: why did he have to keep updating the apps on his iPhone? Cook didn't need his CCO to prompt, “We're working on it."

Of course, all this is good—the “what" worked. The CEO got through a battlefield still on his horse; now comes the “so what" and “now what." The CCO says, good job chief, and reminds that sniping starts now.