What Is Crisis Leadership?

Crisis leadership is the process that a leader or leadership team uses during an event that threatens an organization. It may involve planning for a crisis, motivating employees during a crisis, managing public relations, and/or preserving an organization in the aftermath. It may also require leaders to identify a crisis, understand it, bring effective strategies to bear on it, and distinguish when it is over.

Crisis leadership is a type of management that applies only to certain situations. However, an organization should proactively put systems in place to prevent crises from occurring whenever possible. Leaders should be prepared to meet crises with sufficient and appropriate responses to minimize damage, end the crisis, and lead change in their organizations.

What Constitutes a Business Crisis?

A crisis is usually caused by unexpected occurrences that suddenly interrupt an organization’s normal operation. It often sparks distress among employees and sometimes customers. Many times, crises happen quickly and cause problems in the work environment that can’t be ignored. We may also define a crisis as a series of events that must lead to important changes to an organization. Often, systems must be updated for the organization to succeed in the future. If transformation is not required, the event might not be called a crisis; instead, it may be called an incident or failure. A crisis situation typically goes well beyond a challenging business market or a new competitor. A crisis can

  • Threaten the existence or strength of an organization.
  • Take employees by surprise.
  • Demand quick decisions.
  • Lead to the necessity for change.

Why Is Leadership Important in a Crisis?

Leaders have vital roles during a crisis, especially if they have been trained to deal with them. Subordinate employees are generally skilled at producing results in their roles but are not prepared to think about how to change the systems of the organization.

However, a manager who is prepared for crisis leadership has already thought through how to guide others during a time of major change. He or she knows

  • Planned ways of responding to different types of crises, including how to manage internal and external opinions and conversations about the crisis.
  • Specific definitions of crises that then lead to prepared responses.
  • How to communicate with both employees and the public during a crisis.

Non-managers will need to look to a crisis leader or leadership team for information and direction during a crisis because their previous everyday activities will no longer apply. They’ll need information about the crisis, how it will affect them and the organization, and what specific actions they should take. They’ll need confidence that they can weather the storm.

Also, crisis leadership requires that leaders clearly define the roles that all employees will play during the event—something non-managers cannot do themselves. Effective leaders must assign responsibilities, help employees take quick action, set up ways to promptly report new developments and progress, and define what will constitute the end of the crisis.

How Do You Motivate a Team in a Crisis?

Since a crisis is a time of organizational transformation, the end result could be to improve an organization’s systems. Therefore, a leader can help employees see that a crisis does not have to destroy the organization or result in them losing their jobs.

Crisis leadership should give employees specific roles and actions to take during a crisis and a vision of how the crisis will be resolved. These steps can give employees hope as they realize that their leaders were prepared for the event and competent enough to get them through it safely.

Another way to motivate teams during a crisis is to assure employees that their leaders want the best outcome. Think of a military leader telling her troops that she won’t leave any of them behind. A business leader can show a similar attitude, pledging that he will be personally accountable for helping them survive and thrive through and after the crisis.

Crisis leaders should seek to foster trust and unity between employees, helping them see that they can depend on each other and that everyone is doing their part to end the crisis. A voice of negativity could threaten that unity, and leaders should help to stop it. For example, if false rumors start to spread, they should get ahead of the gossip and tell employees the truth quickly. If a specific employee is known to be spreading rumors, leaders should speak to that employee about it directly.

What Are the Types of Crisis Management?

The types of crisis management are defined by the various stages that an organization goes through during a crisis:

  • Detection: Noticing signs that a crisis could be coming
  • Preparation: Getting ready to weather a crisis or attempt to prevent it
  • Damage Control: Striving to minimize the damage caused to the organization, which includes working to bring the crisis under control
  • Communication: Disseminating vital information to the public, employees, and stakeholders in order to protect the firm’s reputation and warn the affected parties of possible danger
  • Recovery: Rebuilding resources that were damaged by the crisis, as well as improving the strength and resilience of the organization
  • Reflection: Finding opportunities to improve the processes of the organization in response to a crisis

prepare to lead in a crisis