HOW TO LEAD IN A CRISIS

How to lead in a crisis

While every crisis is different in nature requiring a different leadership and management approach, Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School provides an insightful summary of leading through a crisis in the 4 minute video.  She encourages you to:

  1. Be transparent, communicate often 
  2. Act with urgency 
  3. Follow your values 
  4. Share the power.   
  • Watch the overview video.
  • Review the additional resources as required.
  • Learn more about the 9 Crisis Leadership Capabilities below.

Crisis Leadership CAPABILITIES

The capabilities to lead effectively in a crisis are similar to everyday leadership. However the context, focus, urgency and behaviours need to be adapted. Based on crisis leadership research, the below 9 capabilities with supporting behaviours and resources provide a framework for you to learn, reflect and consciously refine your skills. If you havent already, complete the Crisis Leadership Diagnostic to help prioritise capabilities to focus on. Revisit this section as new challenges arise requiring an emphasis on different Crisis Leadership capabilities.

Communication

Communicates during a crisis in a timely, clear, accurate and truthful manner.

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Connectivity

Activates a network of partners that spans organisation and wider stakeholders to meet the immediate (and changing) needs of the response.

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Courage and Perseverence

Displays strength, confidence and persistence when faced with danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.

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Credibility

Demonstrates expertise and trustworthiness in the midst of crisis; earns the confidence and respect of senior leaders, peers and subordinates.

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Integrative thinking

Identifies what is critically important during an emergency and uses the information to strategically lead, balance priorities, and anticipate consequences.

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Decisiveness

Makes critical, timely decisions when faced with ambiguous information about the disaster and response efforts.

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Situational Awarness

Identifies, processes and comprehends the critical elements to adapt to an evolving crisis situation.

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EMOTIONAL EFFECTIVENESS

Recognises the impact crisis has on one’s self and others, and promotes positive interactions under emergency response conditions.

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Team Leadership

Leads, inspires, motivates, and guides the emergency response and team members in a safe and effective manner.

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Communication

Communication

Communicates during a crisis in a timely, clear, accurate and truthful manner.

Key behaviours

  • Communicates effectively and concisely with internal and external audiences in the face of limited, unknown, stressful and negative situations.
  • Expresses the crisis situation, mission, expectations for response team members and decisions in clear and compelling terms appropriate for the target audience.
  • Initiates communication using vertical and horizontal channels of communication to keep leadership, peers and subordinates informed.

Video time: 5 min 13 sec

Connectivity

Connectivity

Activates a network of partners that spans organisation and wider stakeholders to meet the immediate (and changing) needs of the response.

Key behaviours

  • Interacts effectively with key stakeholders, leadership, subordinates and peers from different agencies and organizations to engage in cross-functional activities, share information, and facilitate collaboration across organizational domains.
  • Uses influence and diplomacy skills to reach a goal, to build consensus, or to resolve a conflict.
  • Links knowledge of networks to successfully accomplish mission objectives.

Courage and perseverence

Courage and perseverence

Displays strength, confidence and persistence when faced with danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.

Key behaviours

  • Takes appropriate risks and accepts responsibility for the outcome.
  • Addresses resistance quickly, rationally, and fairly with due consideration.
  • Displays steadfast adherence to priorities despite hardship or obstruction.

Video time: 24 min 35 sec

Additional Resources

Real Leaders Are Forged in Crisis

https://hbr.org/2020/04/real-leaders-are-forged-in-crisis

The perseverance of resilient leadership: Sustaining impact on the road to Thrive

https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/economy/covid-19/sustaining-resilient-leadership-covid-19.html

Credibility

credibility

Demonstrates expertise and trustworthiness in the midst of crisis; earns the confidence and respect of senior leaders, peers and subordinates

Key behaviours

  • Demonstrates knowledge and experience in their area of expertise.
  • Exhibits humility; recognises personal strengths and weaknesses; looks to others for guidance on topics outside of personal expertise; admits to mistakes and takes corrective action.
  • Discerns the appropriate information to share, and when to engage others in conversations, decision and actions.
  • Acts in accordance with ethics, law, and organisational values for the common good of those responding to and impacted by the crisis.

Video time: 8 min 43 sec

Additional Resouces

How leaders can maximize trust and minimize stress during the COVID-19 pandemic

https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/03/covid-19-leadership

COVID-19 crisis tests our leaders’ credibility – their most important asset

https://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/news/2020/03/17/silvermancovid-19-crisis-tests-our-leaders.html 

 

Decisiveness

Decisiveness

Makes critical, timely decisions when faced with ambiguous information about the disaster and response efforts.

Key behaviours

  • Gathers facts, solicits input, makes reasonable and appropriate assumptions, consults with critical stakeholders, and weighs the benefits and risks in order to make and execute decisions quickly with incomplete or limited information.
  • Makes decisions rapidly; based on prior experience, intuition, and knowledge of established protocols.
  • Applies appropriate decision-making processes- systematic problem solving versus experience/ intuitively derived – based on the conditions and context of the emergency response situation.

Video time: 5 min 7 sec

Additional Resources

7 Simple Steps For Good Decision Making During A Crisis 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/biancamillercole/2020/04/14/follow-these-7-steps-for-good-decision-making-in-a-crisis/?sh=26499fa43fe4

Crisis leadership: Guiding the organisation through uncertainty and chaos

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/risk/us-aers-crisis-leadership.pdf 

Emotional Effectiveness

Emotional effectiveness

Recognises the impact crisis has on one’s self and others, and promotes positive interactions under emergency response conditions.

Key behaviours

  • Demonstrates self-awareness and responds constructively to problems and difficult interactions.
  • Recognises survival instincts and signs of stress, demonstrates mental discipline, and maintains control.
  • Considers and responds to the needs, feelings, and capabilities of team memebers, stakeholders and individuals impacted by the crisis.
  • Promotes an environment of safety, connectedness, and hope.
  • Perceives and anticipates the impact and implications of decisions.
  • Assesses and adjusts decisions and actions in response to changing information.

Video time: 14 min 18 sec 

Additional Resources 

Why emotional intelligence is crucial for leaders in crisis

https://business.uq.edu.au/news/why-emotional-intelligence-is-crucial-for-leaders-in-crisis 

7 emotional intelligence traits leaders need in a time of crisis

https://siyli.org/resources/7-emotional-intelligence-traits-leaders-need-in-a-time-of-crisis 

Integrative thinking

Integrative thinking

Identifies what is critically important during an emergency and uses the information to strategically lead, balance priorities, and anticipate consequences.

Key behaviours

  • Synthesizes information into a coherent plan with a clear, yet flexible, strategy and priorities demonstrated through operations, tactics, and logistics.
  • Re-adjusts objectives based on changing priorities to align capacity and desired results.
  • Proactively assesses and addresses both day-to day and long-term problems and opportunities.
  • Anticipates probable and possible events; develops innovative and adaptive solutions to current and potential crisis situations

Video time: 3 min 12 sec

Situational Awareness

Situational awareness

Identifies, processes and comprehends the critical elements to adapt to an evolving crisis situation.

Key behaviours

  • Compiles a plausible picture of the situation that is compatible with the known facts and potential outcomes.
  • Acquires, represents, interprets, and utilizes relevant information in order to make sense of current events, to anticipate future developments, and to make intelligent decisions.
  • Demonstrates awareness of environment and activities; stays abreast of the mission status; continually assesses and reassesses the situation.

Team leadership

Team leadership

Leads, inspires, motivates, and guides the emergency response and team members in a safe and effective manner.

Key behaviours

  • Models actions and behaviours that inspire and motivate positive responses from team members during a crisis
  • Takes initiative to identify key cross-functional team personnel needed; obtains required resources and information so team members may effectively respond to the crisis.
  • Recognizes, acknowledges and addresses the impact of stress on their team during a crisis and makes themselves available and visible to the team when responding to the event.
  • Delegates roles, responsibilities, and decisions appropriately; shares responsibility accountability and recognition; gives guidance and promotes autonomy for others to make decisions within guidelines during the crisis.
  • Manages and resolves disputes and disagreements among team members in a positive and constructive manner.
  • Demonstrates flexibility when confronted with deviations from standard procedures, monitors changes in the performance of other team members.
  • Develops, communicates, and monitors expectations for team performance.

Video time: 6 min 40 sec