About the Crisis Leadership Forum

To better understand the leadership dimensions of crisis situations, the Center for Creative Leadership convened a forum with formal and emergent leaders who played a role in Hurricane Katrina. We overlaid this conversation between crisis leaders with the perspectives of discussants with expertise in disaster, terrorism, public health, and leadership. This blog site is intended to continue this conversation.

To read the report on the Crisis Leadership Forum, please click here.

To read CCL's Leading Effectively newsletter on the Forum, please click here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What Defines a Crisis?

There is a rising concern among some Swaziland government officials that a culture of dependency is contributing to the perennial food shortage in their country. Even with much of the nation requiring food, there is concern that the country’s leaders do not view the problem as a crisis.

What defines a crisis? We tend to think of a crisis as an extreme event or a critical incident yet crises don't often emerge overnight nor fade away quickly. The seeds of a crisis can germinate for a long time -- unseen or ignored -- to explode sharply into our consciousness, and then quickly vanish from our attention. Too often, the lag in the "official" recognition of a crisis is followed by far too little time spent in response ... even as the victims endure years of difficult recovery.

At the CCL Crisis Leadership Forum in March 2007, we heard that crises tend to become chronic. Kyle Waters, senior vice president of Branch Banking at Capital One observed that one of the difficulties is that things become far less clear-cut in the messy wake of a crisis: “In a crisis, the goal or vision is mostly easily identified. But in recovery, the goals and interest get blurred.”

A leadership challenge for us is to be able to better make sense of the subtle factors that create a crisis and to enhance our capability to work through the complexity that follows. Crisis needs a new definition and a new understanding.

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