Literature Review Identifies 5 Steps For Crisis Leadership

5 Keys To Crisis Leadership. Photo by Karla Hernandez.

Two leading business academics shared their five keys to crisis leadership after conducting a literature review on crisis management and leadership.

Professor Ronald E Riggio, a leadership and organisational psychology expert at Claremont McKenna College and Toby Newstead from the School of Business and Economics at the University of Tasmania, reviewed four leadership theories to elucidate the following five key competencies for crisis leadership:

5 Keys to Crisis Leadership

  1. Sensemaking. Crises are novel situations. A leader needs to quickly figure out what is going on, what it all means, and what is needed. Old ways of thinking or acting may or may not be relevant. Sensemaking also involves creating shared meaning and understanding to move the collective to action.
  2. Decision-making. In a crisis, decisions must be made quickly and decisively. This requires relying on trusted sources to contribute information and diverse perspectives. In the end, the leader must make informed decisions based on the best possible information.
  3. Communication. A crisis calls for collective action, so a leader needs to communicate clearly, frequently, and appropriately (e.g., controlling strong negative emotions). Stakeholders need to be fully informed, and the leader can serve as a “hub” for facilitating the flow of communication among various parties.
  4. Coordinating teamwork. Crises require collective action, so leaders need to monitor and empower others, call on others’ expertise when needed, and encourage constructive conflict to solve problems.
  5. Facilitating learning. Throughout, but especially after a crisis, a leader needs to identify weaknesses/vulnerabilities, as well as strengths, to help in crisis recovery and to learn lessons to deal with future crises.

Leaders should be vigilant and attuned to the early signs of an approaching crisis and be prepared to act quickly. Preparation – crisis management – is important for foreseeable crises, but a leader cannot prepare for every scenario.

Crisis leadership calls on the best aspects of exemplary leadership, which includes establishing strong relationships with team members, clear and effective communication, deliberate delegation, and quick decision-making.

Jess Singh Jess Singh is the Managing Editor at MBA News. She has over a decade of content and digital marketing experience in the Australian higher education sector. Jess is also the Chief Content Officer of RGC Media & Marketing (