"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.