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, May 18, 2009

Looking Beyond Government for Help

"AMERICA seems to have dodged a bullet with the swine flu epidemic" writes Stephen T. Ganyard, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, in an op-ed in The New York Times titled All Disasters Are Local. He notes that a big challenge is coordination:

"In responding to crises, the most persistent problem is that of collaboration — people with information and equipment who are unable to share it with those who need it most. The means to effective collaboration is social networking and exploiting the natural mutual attractions of communities with common interests."

An approach to enhance coordination that Ganyard established is an open and voluntary annual disaster simulation in Los Angeles titled Golden Phoenix that builds relationships and trust:

"The degree of personal trust at the tactical level, not money or machines, is the single most important determinant of how well communities will deal with threats and disasters. But these relationships must be established in training so that first responders are not handing out business cards to one another on the way to the disaster."

In the end, says Ganyard, Americans must look beyond government for help:

"Most of the critical infrastructure of the country is in private hands, and much of humanitarian relief is provided by local churches and relief charities. We need "whole of society" not just "whole of government" responses."

Ganyard's perspective on building community relationships and capacity echoes what was learned at the Crisis Leadership Forum, where nearly two dozen leaders came together to share lessons from hurricane Katrina:
  • Forge relationships: Build relationships with a broad base of stakeholders before the crisis.
  • Develop flexibility: Develop a culture of flexibility, adaptation, and discretion while staying action oriented.
  • Encourage courage: Lead your organization in a way such that people aren't afraid to “bet their bars” and take personal risks.
  • Empower people at the grassroots: Organizations should empower local leaders to make decisions based on the situations they face and then support those decisions.
  • Engender inclusive leadership: Develop the capacity in individuals, groups, and communities to participate as peers in creating leadership.

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