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What You Need to Know about Crisis Leadership

Crisis leaders must demonstrate integrity, empathy, compassion, authority, and determination, attributes that defuse tension, provide a focus for activity, and reassure interested parties that there’s competent, responsible leadership at the helm. Of course, crisis leadership isn’t just about personality. What should your clients know about crisis leadership?

What’s involved in crisis leadership?

Well, the function of a crisis leader is to stabilize a fluid situation, instill confidence, and bring out the best in everyone.

Crisis leaders do so by providing clear direction and control.

However, organizations will find that it’s not always possible to impose order on a chaotic situation quickly.

Providing calm, caring, assertive engagement, crisis leaders can leverage team strengths, though, encouraging creative thinking, promoting accountably within a no-blame culture, taking timely action, and assuming appropriate and ultimate responsibility for the crisis management function.

Roles and responsibilities of the crisis leader

But what are a crisis leader’s roles and responsibilities? Well, the crisis leader leads the crisis management team (CMT). At a very basic level, the crisis leader ensures that the team is activated when a crisis takes place and is operating as intended.

During the crisis, 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 most important crisis 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.

Per best practice, further crisis leadership responsibilities include:

  • Consult widely and advise top management of progress, strategy, and required actions
  • Promote the creation of a cross-organizational consensus, as appropriate, indicating the reasons for overriding any advice or recommendation
  • Recognize dilemmas and understand that a decision needs to be taken based on what’s known at the time
  • Ensure that decisions are based on the best information available at the time, and are compassionate, proportionate, necessary, ethical, legal, and aligned with the organization’s values
  • Ensure that decisions and underlying rationale are recorded and documented to permit scrutiny and analysis after the event, so that lessons can be identified
  • Review and authorize strategies for interested-party communications, including public and media information produced by the communications team
  • Remain in their assigned strategic role and direct and empower subordinate leaders
  • Encourage the CMT to concentrate on defining what’s to be done and not the operational and technical detail of how it’s to be done
  • Think creatively, being prepared to think outside the paradigms of normal operations and organizational culture
  • Determine when it’s desirable and safe to scale down or stand down the response
  • Ensure identification and follow-up of important experiences, lessons, and learning

Of course, these responsibilities don’t scratch the surface of what’s needed of a crisis leader throughout the crisis management lifecycle.

To learn more, download our free guide that delves into the leadership and crisis decision-making sections of the ISO 22361 best-practice standard for crisis management: A Best-Practice Guide to Crisis Leadership, Decision Making, and Communication

Download Best-Practice Guide to Crisis Leadership, Decision Making, and Communication