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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Highest Order of Crisis Preparedness

CCL President John Ryan's October 28, 2008 column on BusinessWeek.com offers insights for leaders in dealing with a crisis. The column draws on the Crisis Leadership Forum and makes an important point about the counterproductive tendency to centralize control in a crisis:

"When leaders feel suddenly overwhelmed in crisis, they often try to do everything themselves. Strong individual leadership is of course imperative during a crisis. But it is not sufficient. A collective response is essential. Leaders trying to fix a crisis with a top-down approach many times find they're not close enough to the ground to know what's really happening. And even if they are, there's still no way for them to absorb and make sense of the massive volumes of information flying at them. "

In considering how to effectively marshall collective leadership capacity, there is much to be learned from the US Coast Guard. The USCG's dual strategy of encouraging "on-the-scene initiative" from frontline responders coupled with "commander's intent" from above enables an effective blend of top and bottom leadership. The USCG's ability to align across levels and commands is a product of its continual investment in building individual skills and organizational culture. This focus on building leadership capacity may well be the highest order of crisis preparedness.

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