What To Know About Crisis Leadership? And How To Manage It?

A crisis is an event that disrupts the normal operations of an organization. It depends on the company’s severity, as a crisis can impact its reputation or reduce profits.

Examples of crises include political uprisings, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks.
These events may reduce the demand for certain products by shifting customer priorities, which makes it challenging for them to access non-essential items.

Crises may also result from internal practices like the failure to enforce safety protocols. In such a situation, it’s important to understand crisis leadership and how you should manage it.

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What Is Crisis Leadership?

Crisis leadership is a process the leadership team or a leader uses during an event that threatens an organization. It may involve planning for a crisis, motivating a team when it comes to crises, dealing with public crises, and preserving an organization in the aftermath.

It requires a leader to identify a crisis, understand it, formulate effective strategies to bear it, and distinguish it when it is over.

“Crisis leadership” is a form applicable only in specific situations. But an organization needs to proactively have a system that would enable them to deal with crises whenever they emerge.

The leaders should be able to meet crises with sufficient and appropriate measures to end the crises and lead to a change in the organization.

What constitutes a business crisis?

A crisis is often sparked by unexpected business crises that interrupt an organization’s normal operations. Often, it sparks distress among customers and employees.

Crises often happen quickly, and problems in the work environment may emerge that cannot be solved quickly.
Crises are often defined as a series of events that may lead to essential changes in an organization.

For an organization to succeed in the future, systems need to be updated regularly. The event may be called a crisis if the transformation is not required.

A crisis goes beyond a challenging business market or a new competitor. A crisis may lead to the following scenarios:

  • Threaten the strength or existence of an organization
  • Take the employees by surprise.
  • Quick decisions are demanded.
  • Leading to a necessity for change.

What Is Difference: Crisis Leadership Vs. Crisis Management

During challenging times, both crisis management and crisis leadership are important. However, both of them have some subtle differences.

Organizations that understand the different approaches can implement them at relevant times. The main difference between crisis leadership and crisis management is that the former focuses on long-term strategy.

An attempt is made to preserve the company values and prioritize the needs of employees and customers, so the crisis leader can ensure active perception.

Crisis management is more of a reactive approach whose objective is to restore an organization’s normal operations.

An example is a natural disaster that challenges a company to obtain food supplies. In a crisis, management will be able to ration the company’s current inventory, ensuring it lasts until the vendors are in operation.

These processes stabilize during challenging times and help the crisis team enhance morale.

Why Is Leadership Important During Times Of Crisis?

The role of leaders is vital during times of crisis, more so if they have been trained on how to deal with them.

The subordinate employees are skilled in performing their roles to perfection, but they are not prepared to change the system in an organization. On the other hand, a manager who is prepared for crisis leadership is aware of how to guide others during times of major change.

They are aware of how to

  • Planned ways to respond to various crises include managing internal and external opinions or conversations about crises.
  • the specific definition of crises leading to prepared responses
  • The process of communicating with the public and employees during a crisis

The non-managers will look to the leadership team for direction and information during crises, as their earlier activities are not applicable.

They will require information about the crisis and what specific actions you need to take. They need to have the necessary confidence that they can weather the storm.

An effective crisis leadership module requires leaders to carefully define their roles so that the employees will be playing during an event, something that a non-manager will not be able to do at their end.

An effective leader must assign responsibilities, promptly set up new developments, allow the employees to take quick action, and define what constitutes a crisis.

How To Motivate A Team During A Time Of Crisis?

Crises are time-related to organizational transformation, and eventually, they will improve the organization’s systems.

Hence, a leader has to see that a crisis does not destroy an organization or result in people losing their jobs.

Crisis leadership should give employees specific roles and actions to be taken during crises and a vision of how to solve the crises.

The steps are bound to provide hope to the employees as their leaders were prepared for the event and competent enough to get them through.

Another way to motivate employees in times of crisis is for leaders to want the best outcome. A business leader must be accountable for helping them survive and thrive through crises.

Crises should develop trust and a sense of unity among employees, helping them see that they can depend on each other and ward off the crises.

A voice of negativity may threaten that, and leaders must stop it. For example, if false rumors spread, they should get over it and bring out the truth as soon as possible.

If a particular employee spreads rumors, they should be dealt with immediately.

What Are The Components of Effective Crisis Leadership?

Below are some of the components of a crisis’s leadership.

Early recognition

Crises with a gradual progression can be challenging to recognize since they affect the entire organization.

Even if crises develop rapidly, the leaders may not be able to recognize them, which affects normal operations later.

By practicing early recognition, you may implement an effective leadership style. When you notice a potential issue, you may work with crisis managers to reduce its impact on the organization.

Bounded optimism

The term “bounded optimism” indicates having a positive attitude while considering the severity of the crisis.

Such an approach allows a leader to comfort customers and employees while remaining sensitive to how the effect will impact their lives.

Transparent communication

During a crisis, transparent communication can assure employees and customers while protecting an organization’s reputation.

While you may provide as much information about the response plan as possible, acknowledge the facts that an organization is unaware of.

Once the crisis starts to develop, provide regular updates to the public. You may discuss the adjustments that an organization makes and share the results.

When providing updates, try to use channels accessible to the general public.

Establishing priorities

When deciding on a crisis leader, figure out what the priorities are for your organization. Most leaders prioritize the safety of their employees and customers first, ensuring that every decision they make impacts human life.

A crisis leader also establishes secondary priorities to maintain the beliefs of an organization. Companies can have various values, and common among them are customer service, innovation, and environmental commitment.

Willingness to explore additional support

Some leaders attempt to retain power during a crisis, and exploring additional support may be beneficial.

You can get in touch with industry experts for advice on managing the situation and delegating responsibility to the relevant stakeholders.

As part of your custom plan, you may incorporate customer and employee feedback. This gives a sense of purpose to the organization during these turbulent times.


A good crisis leader tends to be adaptable, which allows them to revise their response plans based on the situation.

For example, they may use new research to adapt procedures or revise an existing policy.

Crises And Leadership: How To Manage The Unexpected

During the pandemic, we have seen examples of poor crisis leadership. Within our organization, some unexpected leaders have emerged to face the challenges, whereas the performance of others has been disappointing.

The sad part is that no one knows who a good crisis leader is until the worst happens. Even those in traditional leadership roles fail to live up to the expectations.

Crisis leadership can be a challenge, but there are a few proven and trusted strategies that may make it a tad easier.

Before reacting, take a breath.

When a challenging situation arises, it may be natural to react instantly. Unless there is a fire at your office and you need to take everyone out, an instant response may be a mistake.

A good crisis leadership strategy will be to take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and assess the situation.

If you jump into a quick decision-making process, all the decisions will go wrong since you have incorrect or inadequate information at your disposal.

Even waiting for a considerable amount of time can lead to problems.

Crisis leadership requires flexibility.

During the management of a crisis, the situation often changes. It is really difficult to anticipate what the future will hold before you plan.

COVID-19 has forced us to embrace information as and when it comes. This is a good lesson to follow during times of crisis management. An organization has to constantly reframe and deal with crises in a better way.

Crises leadership needs to follow a decisive approach

At the time of a crisis, multiple members may be called upon to provide their feedback and inputs or take the lead.

The situation calls for assembling a team to deal with the crises and give a patient hearing of the experiences and suggestions of others.

There may also be times when the CEO is not the best person to deal with the response.
Irrespective of who leads the response, leaders need to be effective.

All the stakeholders need to be aware of the situation at hand, and a plan has to be formulated, and ways devised to come out of the crisis.

Over-communicate with the employees

When an organization is amid a crisis, it affects every individual at some level, but it could also affect the external people in the organization.

This makes communication a crucial aspect of your crisis management plan. You must communicate with the stakeholders about everything related to the crisis.

In addition, it is also vital that you designate a single person in your organization to communicate messages.

When you choose one person, it ensures that the message is clear, concise, and conveyed in such a manner that everyone understands.

Do not sugar-coat

During a time of crisis, do not sugar-coat information. Hiding reality is the wrong approach. As part of the crisis management strategy, it is about transparent and honest communication about the situation as far as possible.

It erodes the faith and trust in the leaders if crisis leadership is not truthful.

What Are The Psychology Behind Crisis Leadership?

When you ask a group of managers what makes a good leader, everyone nods in unison for vision. A vision would inspire and motivate people to move forward.

People will move ahead if the leader’s vision is direction and hope. You cannot call yourself a leader if you do not have one.

When the appeal of leadership rests on the vision alone, the leadership is not seen as a whole. The limitations of visionary leadership become painful in terms of uncertainty and crises, as this type of holding enables us to move purposefully.

People will never forget how their managers treated them when they faced loss. They will remember how their institutions, peers, or managers guided them throughout the crises.

What Are The Types of Crisis Management?

The various stages define the types of crisis management an organization undergoes during a crisis.

  • Detection: Witnessing signs that a crisis is around the corner

  • Preparation: getting ready to weather the crisis and making attempts to prevent it

  • Damage control: Striving to maximize the damage caused to the organization includes working to bring the crises under control.

  • Communication: disseminating vital information to the public, employees, and stakeholders to protect the firm’s reputation and inform the intended parties of potential danger.

  • Recovery: building resources that were damaged by the crises as well as improving the strength and reliance of an organization

  • Reflection: exploring opportunities to enhance the process of an organization’s response to a crisis

How Should Leaders Lead During A Time Of Crisis?

During times of crisis, leaders built a relational, personal, and cultural foundation as they focused on the immediate moment.

An effective leader follows the below-mentioned paths during a time of crisis.

Face up to the emotions.

Recognize and manage the emotions of the situation. It can be others or as well as your own could help an individual and group resiliency.

This would also mean that people who think normally and people with an imbalanced emotional stage do not progress well. You must reduce people’s emotional stress when doing a job.

Show respect

Treat people with genuine concern and sincere consideration. Show it by listening, paying attention, responding to what people are telling you, and considering what is being said.

Be positive

The leader’s attitude is contagious, and they are believers in hope. Even in the worst of situations, an upbeat attitude keeps them going.

Make connections

Draw on the qualities of courage, loyalty, mortality, and other principles that link up the crises module on what is important to people.

What Are The Secrets To Crisis Leadership?

With the emergence of the pandemic, crisis leadership was thrown into sharp focus. Leaders were tasked with making remote work effective, managing the mental health of their workforce, and mitigating the loss of revenue through various schemes.

The nature of crises indicates that challenges are likely to emerge in the future, and the onus lies on the senior leadership to prepare their employees and companies in the best way so that they can overcome that.

Some of the secrets to crisis leadership are depicted below.

In times of crisis, leadership requires preemptive planning.

Every organization, at some point in time, will experience a crisis. They could be minor ones like the internal loss of an employee or major ones like a leaked information scandal.

Organizations need to realize that they are not exempt when it comes to crises. It is not a question of when a crisis will happen.

As part of the crisis management strategy, preparation is key. The leaders can outline the various crisis scenarios, delegate a crisis team, and formulate effective communication paths.

Crisis leadership requires transparency.

For effective crisis management, building credibility is important. To do this, the leaders need to be transparent and share any information that they have.

The moment your team trusts you, they are likely to perform better. Employees who trust their leaders will likely be effective, engaged, and motivated to work better.

These traits can help an organization remain positive amid a crisis. An honest approach can save the leaders from an internal fallout should information that was meant to be a secret is leaked. Speedy communication is important when it comes to dealing with a crisis.

Crisis leadership is all about authentic leadership.

Authentic leadership is a leadership style that revolves around ethical behavior and making decisions that align with your core values.

During a crisis, it is vital, as you need to be authentic. When dealing with a crisis, the leaders would be at the forefront of everyone.

Social media can be a boon to authentic leadership, helping leaders connect and showcase their support to the wider community unfiltered.

Be aware that it is not a tool to push out information, as it can be used during a crisis. Ensure that the platforms are used for two-way communication.

Leadership in a time of crisis means remaining connected with the stakeholders.

In times of crisis, clear communication is an effective strategy. However good your message may be, if you address your followers sporadically, it will make them feel uncertain.

Bad leadership is better than no leadership. To address these feelings of disconnection, employees at various levels should schedule updates and provide a platform for them to ask any questions they may have.

Organizations need to have a regular schedule where they communicate with their stakeholders.

Emotional intelligence is a vital cog in the wheel of effective leadership.

Leaders with higher levels of emotional intelligence are likely to fare better in a crisis. Being humble and listening to the views of others is a vital trait in crisis leadership.

This is an important part of the decision-making process in diverse cultural teams.

Internal relationships are not the only ones that matter. Leaders must maintain a broad network of connections to cope with unexpected situations. A crisis in no time leads to the binding of relationships.

Crises in leadership: A way forward

Crises: Leadership is a process that deals with unpredictable events and can potentially weaken the organizational structure and hamper growth along with development opportunities.

There is a need to have a systematic and structured approach to crisis management that helps contain the loss for an organization and finds innovative ways to keep the employees motivated and engaged.

Adaptable and decisive

A few situations may arise where the leaders are forced to make hard or quick decisions, and a crisis happens to be one of them.

The leaders need to make decisions on the move, and when it comes to hard decisions, they are aware it will not give them any hard points.

There is no time to ponder the pros and cons of a decision at a leisurely pace. Leaders who are adaptable, decisive, and willing to make hard decisions are going to have considerable success in weathering the storm.

Cope up with the chaos

In the situation of immediate crisis, a work environment can quickly devolve into chaos as emotions are at the forefront, with fear being the essence. A leader must take control and prevent the chaos from spreading.

This is the first thing that a leader needs to do when a crisis arises. It may involve quickly delegating tasks or bringing the house into order.

Either way, it is possible to begin a crisis action where everyone is determined and focused on completing the task.

Exercise caution

In the situation of crisis is not an excuse to throw caution to the wind unless a worst-case scenario occurs and you are left with no other option.

Rather, the leaders must be quick and measured in their approach. This means evaluating all the facts at hand and making a calculated move on what would be the best course of action.

Well, this may turn out to be an impossible task, but this is a habit that can be developed over some time. An alert mind is a valuable skill for a leader, especially since it may be handy in times of crisis.

Remain positive during crises.

This happens to be one of those things that are easier said than done. After all, how can you remain positive when everything around you is going negative?

It is not to say that leaders do not have to be blindly optimistic when the outcome tends to be otherwise.

Once insecurity creeps in, it leads to a degree of self-doubt. This prevents the leaders from making the hard choices that they need.


Even by following all the above tips, crises cannot be avoided. It is virtually impossible to be prepared for a crisis. When a crisis occurs, do not ignore or avoid it.

Rather, tackle it head-on and work on it as a stepping stone to deal with the challenge. A crisis poses a responsibility to acknowledge responsibility, take ownership, and do better.


What is the type of leadership that is required in a time of crisis?

During times of crisis, leaders connect, motivate, inspire others, and show true compassion. Responsibility and humility are the difference,

How are you going to communicate with a customer during a crisis?

If the company is yet to experience a crisis, the leaders need to have a strategy in place on how to deal with the crisis. This will ensure a smooth transition for both the clients and the customers.

What are the questions to ask during a time of crisis?

The questions asked during a crisis are “why, what, and how did it happen?”

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