Linking Crisis Management and Leadership Competencies

Posted on August 14, 2011


The first boss from whom I learned enormous amounts (namecheck: Jamie McLean, thank you) taught me that if you want to do something well, work backwards.  Decide what you need something to be/do/achieve so you can produce an output spec.  Then work out what’s needed to achieve the spec.  Sounds simple, right, but so many people do it the other way around (as any business continuity planners will appreciate: how many times have you explained to people that if they START by writing the plan they will generally write the wrong plan for the wrong things).  Anyway, this is my intro to telling you I found this great article, the title of which I’ve nicked for this post.

You see, I’ve written up the section on features of a resilient organisation, how the standards available do and don’t help, and now I’m explaining what leaders need in order to build resilience in their organisation.  And it seems to me that one should look at what they’d need to be able to do in a crisis, and work backwards to ensure they are equipped with those skills, but also with the ability to minimise or avoid the issue before it becomes a crisis.  And this article is very helpful.

As always, I can’t steal the article and repost it here, because it doesn’t belong to me.  But I can share the abstract, offer up a few quotes that I think might help, and give you a link to the article itself.  So the abstract is to the left, and your quotes are here:

Organizational crises are described as low-probability and high-consequence events and are generally characterized by ambiguity” (Wooten & James, 2008)

Organizational agility. Crisis leaders who are competent in organizational agility have a thorough knowledge of all aspects of the business and can work across organizational functions, departments, or silos to accomplish a task. In preparing or planning for a crisis, the ability to be organizationally agile is critical because although a crisis event may initially affect one aspect of the business, ultimately the entire organization, including its reputation, may be at stake. Crisis preparation and prevention must consider the organization in its entirety. Moreover, to the extent that a crisis leader understands all aspects of the organization and is able to span organizational boundaries to get things done, the more comprehensive a crisis plan is likely to be.” (Wooten & James, 2008)

In addition to brainstorming about potential types of crises a firm may be vulnerable to, the most competent crisis leaders will identify full-fledged scenarios of possible events. Those scenarios then would be used as the foundation for preparing the organization for how to respond should an actual crisis occur by allowing decision makers to experiment with possible actions and hypothetical consequences (Chermack, 2003). Also, scenario planning for a crisis helps leaders create cognitive maps that provide a reference point and increase one’s ability to navigate unfamiliar terrain (Weick, 1990). Unfortunately, we found little evidence of the firms in our sample having displayed creativity during the preparation and planning stage. In fact, it was the antithesis of creativity that we observed in some firms that led us to identify creativity as an important competency” (Wooten & James, 2008)

Second, there is a need to develop training programs that expose managers to the skills needed during the damage control phase of a crisis. The leadership competencies required of executives in times of relative calm are fairly distinct from the skill set required to effectively manage a crisis” (Wooten & James, 2008)

I hope that helped you as much as it helped me.  🙂

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