It’s fair to say that during a crisis a leader’s abilities are put to a test. The study of crisis leadership extends beyond merely examining how a leader performs under pressure generated by a crisis; it also focuses on how a crisis may offer the leader a unique opportunity to discard old policies and kick-start new ones. According to researchers who study this form of leadership, a crisis occurs when policy makers experience “a serious threat to the basic structures or the fundamental values and norms of a system, which under time pressure and highly uncertain circumstances necessitates making vital decisions.”
Book to Read
The Politics of Crisis Management: Public Leadership Under Pressure
by Boin, ’t Hart, Stern and Sundelius (2005)
Quick Take from the Book
Researchers have identified six challenges that every leader must confront during a crisis:
- Sense making (leaders need to determine, even in the face of ambiguity and complexity, the likely level and impact of the threat.
- Decision making (leaders must make decisions amid conflicting information, values and risks).
- Coordinating (leaders recognize that a crisis cannot be managed in a linear, hierarchical fashion); meaning making (leaders offer their stakeholders a coherent and credible account for what has happened).
- Terminating-accounting (leaders need to know when the crisis has ended, operationally and politically).
- Learning (leaders recognize that there are “lessons to be learned” from a crisis).
Quote of Note
"There is evidence to suggest that crisis leadership will become even more important in the future as the nature of crisis changes….[C]rises are becoming increasingly interconnected and transboundary in nature. Future crises such as pandemics and mega computer viruses will transgress functional, geographical, and time boundaries that used to keep crises and disasters more or less contained. We are looking at crises that will escalate across policy domains and countries, combining long incubation times with long-term effects. Such crises are harder to manage through conventional means and strategies. — Boin McConnell & ’t Hart
Related Styles: Boundary-spanning Leadership