Workplace violence, terrorist attacks, a pandemic, senseless shootings, health issues, and natural disasters call attention to managerial leadership in crisis situations. These situations often catch leaders unprepared to face unexpected challenges of great consequence. What leadership behaviors are most critical in a crisis? A recently published study attempted to answer this question (Peterson, Van Fleet, & Peterson, 2022). The researchers had a total of 572 working professionals from a midwestern United States city complete a managerial leadership behavior assessment questionnaire. The study found 5 leadership skills important in facing crisis situations. These included:
1. Solving problems. In crisis situations, people want their leaders to a) face problems, and b) formulate solutions.
2. Building a team. To do so, leaders in crisis situations must network, partner with others, and forage relationships between previously unrelated agents and agencies. They build a team that recognizes the importance of a shared purpose and holds each other accountable.
3. Delivering clear and compelling directions. Leading in crisis demands a leader orchestrate the actions of team members, and the only way to effectively do so is to ensure members have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to do and why.
4. Eliminating Obstacles. Leaders who could eliminate problems and obstacles faced by their team members were far more effective in crisis situations than leaders who could not or would not remove such obstacles. This leadership action allowed the team to function efficiently and effectively in overcoming the challenges thrown at them by the crisis.
5. Inspires action. In addition to providing clear, compelling directions and a shared purpose, leaders need to remain calm, in control, and confident of a successful outcome. They lead by being a role model and taking deliberate, skillful, and tireless action.
While the above skills can serve leaders in almost any situation, given the substantial consequences of poor team performance during crisis situations, it is incumbent upon leaders to develop the skills needed to successfully lead their teams in trying times.
Peterson, T. O., Van Fleet, D. D., & Peterson, C. M. (2022). What Members Need in Work Situations: Two Samples of Essential Managerial Leadership Behaviors. Journal of Managerial Issues, 34(2), 100–124.