BLG Leadership Insights Features

Guide To Crisis Leadership

In a moment of crisis, when things seem to be most falling apart, be it after a Katrina-like event, market collapse, or a 9-11 terror, the public turns to its leaders for a sense of reassurance.  These are times when leaders have to be smart about how they present themselves.  They have to make a calculated decision about not simply about what they’re going to do, but how they will present themselves.

This decision leaders make about presentation of self is absolutely critical, and if mishandled can have disastrous effects.  Leadership at this time is a question of language as much as it is of action.  In the long run, what leaders accomplish is the litmus test, but in the immediate short run, what leaders say is of psychological and political importance.

Scholars of leadership talk about two types of leadership styles: transformational and transactional.  Transformational leadership is based on presentation of a broad vision and new perspectives.  It is a style that is embodied by a paradigmatic shift.  The language of transformational leadership strives to inspire confidence, by using history, culture, stories, and all those things that are able to mobilize a collective.  Transformational leaders instill a sense of collective and a sense of commitment.

Transactional leaders tend to specify how they will move from point A to point B.  This is not a language of aspiration, but a language of execution.  Transactional leaders specify the nuts and bolts of what needs to be done.  They are less obsessed with commitment and concerned with resources and coordination.

In a time of crisis, leaders need to do both.  They need to be transformational to instill a sense of commitment that we’re in this together, and transactional to make sure that efforts are sustained and visions are achieved.

Great political leaders, like Lincoln and Roosevelt, understood that in times of uncertainty the importance of using both leadership styles to reassure the public that even if the sky was falling, that we could get it under control.  If our present political leaders understand this as well, then there is the hope that they’ll be able to calm the panic and inspire a quiet, confident sense of direction.

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BLG Leadership Insights

Don’t Be a Frog: Proactive Leading in Boiling Water

Put a frog in boiling water. It’s going to jump out. Put a frog in cold water and turn the heat on–it’ll stay in the pot and meet it’s slow end.

People are much the same. When thrown into an immediate crisis, whether it be a terrorist attack, a tsunami, or a financial collapse, people will react and react in a big way. However, when people slowly start to see signs of a crisis on the horizon they do little to stop it.

After initial relief efforts and a drive to get everything ‘business as usual’ people will work on tweaking their senses and adjusting their old habits so they can avoid, or at the very least, predict the arrival of similar disasters. They don’t want to be caught in a simmering pot again.

Take terrorism. On September 11th, 2001 the world stopped. Immediately America was put on high alert while money, muscle, and aid flowed into New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. Afterwords, America became vigilant and mandated new security rules in all airports, busy road-ways, and public transpiration hubs.

Americans, in general, became weary of mass transit, flying, and looked at long security check points as necessary.