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My thoughts on Crisis Leadership – what are yours?


Addressing the Media - Only one part of Crisis Leadership

Communication – A key part  of Crisis Leadership

CEO’s are leaders, and leaders should provide leadership during a crisis.  So why don’t they?  CEO’s, what holds you back and stops you from taking charge?  What keeps you from moving your organization beyond the event?

In a crisis a leader has 5 groups to think about.  One – those people directly affected by the event; Two – customers, people or organizations that depend on your product or service; Three – employees, people and suppliers whose livelihood your business supports and who may have been involved in the delivery of service at the time of an event; Four – Boards of Directors – individuals with a legal and oversight responsibility for the business; and Five – Investors / Stockholders– individuals or organizations who have some ownership and expect a return from the business and want to know how a crisis will be managed.

A highly successful leader in a crisis meets the needs of these groups. Presuming you have a plan and resources, and have exercised those plans and resources then you can achieve success.   This means when a crisis strikes go on the offensive to address the needs of the people.  Not the defensive –waiting to be asked or told.  Reactive leadership is never successful in a crisis.  It means being honest and transparent in communications, managing your response to the event not trying to control the event or even the message.   It means saying you are sorry and assisting those people directly affected by the event.

Say you are sorry? Yes.  In today’s environment of litigation and criminal investigations it is even more important to acknowledge the event and the immediate impact it has had on people.  Why, because in many cases anger drives the contentious litigation and criminal investigations.    The anger is not because the event occurs.  It is because the way a company leadership responds to the event.  It is because leadership withdraws and allows the event and multiple other parties to govern the response.   True crisis leadership means realizing the importance of governing the response.

Based on my experiences in multiple large scale loss of life incidents, brand reputational and too many other crises, I am certain that the leader who follows this course of action will achieve success.  Sadly, few seem to realize its importance.   What do you think?



Robert A. Jensen
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Robert A. Jensen

Robert serves as an international advisor to both government officials and to members of the private sector on disaster management issues. He is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and International Association of Emergency Managers. Learn more here.
Robert A. Jensen
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One thought on “My thoughts on Crisis Leadership – what are yours?”

  1. Dr. Hans-Peter Kirsch says:

    A CEO and his board of directors should always be aware of the fact that disasters happen and that it is not a question of if but only when. So, companies should engage specialists to do a structured disaster scenario planning, depending on obviously existing risks. This is a time consuming task and, as far as I experienced, not really popular. Persons who are not afraid to think the unthinkable are not really popular too. At long last, companies always question the return of investment of those measures.

    Companies representatives mostly state that the probability of any disaster scenario affecting their business is small. They don´t think about the consequences after a risk scenario materializes and lose precious time while shaping a communicable disaster response on the fly. It is nearly impossible to communicate a sufficient corporate disaster response on short notice without a detailed preparation. So they will always be reacting, always falling short of the course of events.

    A commanding disaster response and concerning communications look quite different. It has to be prepared, structured, quick, clear, honest. When disaster strikes, the response plan and its statements should be verbalized and communicated before the press does.

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