Strong crisis leadership is about making decisions at 2am with only 60 per cent of the facts. Here are 5 tips to ensure you and your organisation come out of a crisis relatively unscathed.

1. Ensure your organisation has the right crisis leader
In many respects, great crisis leadership is the opposite of what is taught at university. Corporate leaders are trained to make 100 per cent accurate decisions, with extensive use of committees, sub-committees and deferment until more facts are known. However, the fear of making a bad decision can be crippling during a crisis.

In many cases any decision is better than no decision. Therefore, it should not be assumed that the head of your organisation is going to be the right person to lead the company through a crisis. Be honest with yourself to ensure your selected crisis leader is in the hot seat because they are the right fit, not just because they’re at the top of the food chain.

2. It’s how a leader responds and not what they do
A successful crisis leader has a high degree of emotional intelligence and is extremely good at getting to the heart of a problem. The 80/20 rule is extremely important here. 80 per cent of results comes from 20 per cent of the effort and the remaining 20 per cent of the results come from 80 per cent of the effort. There is no perfect solution in a crisis but an effective crisis leader will align their team to achieve the 80 per cent result that matters, when time and resources are limited.

3. Know when to consult and when to dictate
A great crisis leader has a combination of leadership styles in their kit-bag. Crisis leadership is a lot like military operations. It is vital to know when to be highly collaborative and consultative and when to be decisive. Both are critical in a crisis. Collaboration is critical up to a certain point but then someone has to make a call. The person making the call needs to have the support of the team to implement that decision, regardless of their personal opinions. In other worlds, the crisis management team acts like the United Nations when it can and a dictatorship when it needs to. Knowing the appropriate time for each will determine how well your organisation comes out the other side of a crisis.

4. Use a crisis to your advantage
A crisis is one of the best times for a leader to get things done. Often a crisis will be an indication that the old way of doing things can no longer be maintained. Use the sense of urgency a crisis brings to innovate or implement cultural or structural change in your organisation.

5. Be empathetic
Most importantly, a great crisis leader will have a high degree of empathy. Appreciation of both your external and internal stakeholders ensures your crisis response is not just about assets and operations but also about people and reputation. Most of the world’s crisis management failures, such as the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, have occurred because the organisation, led by the crisis leader, did not demonstrate authentic empathy to the affected stakeholders.

Your different stakeholder groups may not be a problem at the start of a crisis, but can quickly become an additional issue for your organisation if communications or actions are badly handled or ignored all together. Your response to stakeholder groups should be prioritised by their importance to the future of your organisation. Having a stakeholder relations management strategy in place for crisis situations will both help to ensure stakeholders are not forgotten and they are adequately and consistently communicated with, through a sincerely empathetic approach.


Dynamiq Founder and Director of Strategy, Anthony Moorhouse

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