Crisis Leadership

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Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Crisis Leadership

Publilius Syrus already wrote in the 1st century BC: "Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm". This crisis management axiom is so important to leadership and management that we have it on the mouse pads of our management platform.

Leadership during a crisis is arguably the most difficult challenge any human being could ever face. Let's keep our heads cool and focus on the key things leaders should do in current Covid-19 crisis.

An excellent starting point is the framework of Boin, 't Hart, and van Esch, who researched the proceedings of the global financial crisis of 2008 and have come up with a framework of 7 key challenges of crisis leadership:
  1. SENSE MAKING: Diagnose confusing, contested and often fast-moving situations correctly, a necessary condition for effectively meeting the other challenges.
  2. MEANING MAKING: Provide persuasive public accounts of what is happening, why it is happening, what can be done about it, how and by whom; in other words, 'teaching reality' aimed at managing both the general public's and key stakeholders' emotions, expectations, behavioural inclinations, as well as to restore their crisis-eroded trust in public institutions and office-holders.
  3. DECISION MAKING: Make strategic policy judgments under conditions of time pressure, uncertainty and collective stress.
  4. COORDINATION: Forge effective communication and collaboration among pre-existing and ad-hoc networks of public, private and sometimes international actors.
  5. CONSOLIDATION: Switch the gears of government and society back from crisis mode to recovery and 'business as usual', without a loss of attention and momentum in delivering long-term services to those who are eligible.
  6. ACCOUNTABILITY: Manage the process of expert, media, legislative and judicial inquiry and debate that tends to follow crises in such a way that responsibilities are clarified and accepted, destructive blame games are avoided.
  7. LEARNING: Make sure that the parties involved in the crisis engage in critical, non-defensive modes of self-scrutiny and draw evidence-based and reflective lessons for their future performance.
The way in which crisis challenges are taken up, when and by whom determine how crises will determine their course and what sort of impact they will have. Let's see if leaders will follow the above sensible advice from science rather than spreading fake news themselves, blaming other countries or using the crisis for their own personal or political interests.

Source: Arjen Boin, Paul 't Hart, and Femke van Esch (2012), "Political Leadership in Times of Crisis: Comparing Leader Responses to Financial Turbulence", Researchgate

  Michael Norris
Director, United States

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  Nassim Rabii
Manager, Tunisia

Comments on Key Challenges of Crisis Leadership

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  Hong Sun
Management Consultant, Canada

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Strategy Consultant, Italy

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  Yoav Weinstein
CEO, Israel

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  Michael Norris
Director, United States

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  Hong Sun
Management Consultant, Canada

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  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

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It seems to me that all of the points noted in the (...)

  Graham Williams
Management Consultant, South Africa

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  Helen Strong
Business Consultant, South Africa

Requirement for Leadership in a Crisis

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  Nassim Rabii
Manager, Tunisia

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  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

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  Michael Norris
Director, United States

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  Graham Williams
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  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

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@Graham Williams: Agreed. Management-leadership, i (...)

  Graham Williams
Management Consultant, South Africa

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  Shubhi Kotiya
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  Parag Utekar
Student (MBA), India

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