Successful crisis response rarely happens without the support of a well prepared strategic crisis management team, whose breadth of knowledge and variety of skills combine in a co-ordinated manner under a decisive leader. However, during my time in this industry I have heard several tales of organisations responding to crises in unorthodox ways. Sometimes one or two Directors (presumably the ones initially notified of impending doom) get together and attempt to solve the problem on their own, without the support of the rest of their fellow management team. These attempts almost always end in disaster as the crisis spirals beyond their control.
I have often wondered why someone would chose to go it alone in a crisis, and have identified the following types of leaders who prefer to face the storm single-handed:
The Cautious Georges – Cautious Georges are afraid of being brandished by colleagues as a time waster if the situation isn’t deemed significant enough, worried about being known as the director unable to handle something a little out of the ordinary without asking for help. This can result in staff failing to escalate an incident until its severity is unquestionable, at which point it is often already out of control, and the crisis management team will already be on the back foot.
The White Knights – Those who approach the situation like a knight in shining armour, attempting to tackle the problem head on and hope a resolution is achieved before anyone else has to hear about it. Especially relevant perhaps if the source of the crisis is the knights very own department or area of responsibility.
The Lone Wolves – Crises need quick thinking and even quicker decision making – anyone who has been involved in one would agree with that – so these wolves believe it’s better to go it alone and leave the pack behind. Who needs democracy and discussion in a crisis? Wolves believe that the less people there are, the less resistance they will get and the easier the situation will be to deal with.
The Ostriches – Those that put their head in the sand and hope the problem will disappear… Unfortunately we all know from experience that this is unlikely to be the case, in fact it will probably be a lot worse when you eventually come up for air. Ostriches are the first to say ‘it will never happen to us’.
The Optimists – Finally there are the optimists, the people that believe it will all be okay in the end. They have a tendency to underestimate the severity of the situation, or refuse to declare a crisis on the basis that its meaning has far too many negative connotations for the organisation, and therefore it’s better to downplay the situation.
Ultimately, whatever the reason for going it alone, crisis management ‘loners’ soon realise their mistake, but often only when it is already too late. The most successful crisis leaders are those who do just that: lead.