Crisis Leadership Is More Complicated than You Think
Leaders aren’t born, they’re made. And that’s nowhere truer than in the crisis setting, where the capability to lead effectively should never be taken for granted. But what’s involved in crisis leadership, exactly?
Roles and responsibilities of the crisis leader
For starters, crisis leadership is more than a collection of personal attributes. The crisis leader must lead the crisis management team (CMT), ensuring that the team is activated when a crisis takes place.
During the crisis, though, the leader presides over executive meetings, determining their timings and frequency, and setting the agenda. The crisis leader also reviews who’s on the team as well as how each member performs.
The crisis leader must also determine the crisis management strategy, set the strategic aim, and identify objectives for the different teams and departments contributing to the response.
That responsibility entails continual review of and updates to crisis-related outputs. Which, in turn, helps ensure that departments, teams, and agencies report regularly against their objectives and make appropriate progress.
The most important crisis leadership task, however, is to promote shared situational awareness among stakeholders. Which often requires the crisis leader to challenge evidence and thinking and encourage the rest of the CMT to do the same.
Facilitating the wellbeing of responders
But leaders aren’t effective without teams. And teams have to be operating at full capacity themselves to be effective.
To that end, crisis leaders are also responsible for the wellbeing of their team members.
The research makes it clear, though, that crises erode physical and emotional wellbeing. It, as such, falls to crisis leadership and other senior leadership to investigate, review, and implement measures to mitigate these impacts.
The potential measures they can take include the following:
- Assigning responsibility for monitoring wellbeing of individuals or their families
- Identifying sufficient personnel to fulfil crisis management roles
- Supporting wellbeing and fatigue management for those responding
- Training, validation, and awareness
- Resources for dealing with distressing issues
- Providing access to specialist resources and timely individual support to address well-being concerns that cannot be triaged by the organization (psychological support)
The challenges of crisis decision making
Of course, crisis leaders are primarily judged by the decisions they take during a critical event.
This crisis decision-making process is multifaceted. For one, it’s affected by the values, weight factors (including legal, technical, operational, etc.), priorities, and preferences of decision-maker(s).
What’s more, the exchange of information during the decision-making process necessarily impacts the decision or the level of consensus achieved. And so, informational challenges, such as lack of knowledge and abundance of rumors, assumptions, and misinformation, prove particularly threatening to effective decision-making.
Compounding it all, these informational challenges significantly increase a decision-maker’s stress. That can negatively affect cognitive processes.
All is not lost, though. Decision-making models, though not a guarantee of success, exist to make the task of crisis decision making more manageable.
What do these models look like? And how can crisis management software help? Download our Best-Practice Guide to Crisis Leadership, Decision Making, and Communication to find out.