The ability to make high-stakes decisions in times of crisis is a critical leadership skill. A research study examined the decision-making processes of successful crisis leaders to identify their decision-making traits (Oroszi, 2018). As any leader who has experienced a crisis situation will tell you, crises have distinct factors: a) they are time-intensive, b) pose significant risks and c) demand consequential decisions. International expert crisis leadership professionals from national security, law enforcement and government agencies participated in the study. The experts were asked to describe and detail their approach to crisis decision-making. The findings identified a common pattern of practice.  That pattern was comprised of the following traits:

Situational awareness

  • Use objective data
  • Recognize conditions continual change
  • Align actions with goals
  • Understand that organization structure influences outcomes
  • Know and adhere to time constraints

Group dynamics

  • Engage in informed conversations and debates
  • Focus on multiple issues at one time
  • Many people are involved in the decision process

Decision-making processes

  • All options are assigned a value
  • More than one response/choice/option is determined
  • The intended results are rank ordered based on importance or value

We all face crises from time to time.  Many are experiencing that time now.  And in those moments, the decisions we make will have lasting consequences.  Adopting the decision-making patterns of leading crisis professionals just may offer us the lifeline we need to make decisions that will pull us out of harms way and into a more secure future.


Oroszi, T. (2018). A preliminary analysis of high-stakes decision-making for crisis leadership. Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning11(4), 335–359.