Leadership in Times of Crisis
The real test of leadership does not occur when everything is smooth sailing. Rather, leadership is oftentimes tested during a crisis. The way a leader behaves and acts during a crisis will establish their credentials as a good leader or a poor one.
That being said, there’s no handy manual out there that can guide a leader through a crisis. This is because while there can be certain protocols in place that prevent a crisis from happening, each new crisis is unique in its own way, with its own problems and quirks and will require a different approach from the one used before.
Very often, the unpredictable nature of crises means that leaders have no time to prepare. It is very much ado or be destroyed situation. Additionally, there’s no telling how long a crisis will take to blow over. The time period can range from a day or two to over a few years.
Catastrophic workplace incidents impact people in ways that can have lasting negative consequences. Even crisis-prepared companies often overlook these needs. Effective response to a workplace crisis a violent act, a serious injury or fatality or some type of natural or man-made disaster requires an understanding of what people need from management and how to provide it. In Lagos, Ikeja, a construction worker was killed on May 27 when a 100,000-pound concrete slab tipped over on him in an accident similar to one that killed three construction workers in Apapa.
On May 26, a clerk at a drugstore in Abuja, was stabbed and killed when he confronted a man stealing razors and blades. A factory worker in Sango Ota was killed May 27 when he was pinned between some equipment in a forklift accident. His coworkers watched as he was freed and transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Almost daily, employees are killed or seriously injured in the workplace while coworkers look on. Sometimes a single employee is involved in a life-threatening situation. At other times, an entire work force might be in jeopardy, such as when an explosion, fire or natural disaster strikes. What do employees need beyond basic survival following a workplace disaster? They need immediate aid and assurance of safety; information and reassurance; understanding and ongoing support; and a rapid return to productivity. Other constituents, like family members, institutional investors, customers, suppliers and distributors, also have variations on these same needs. There are right ways and wrong ways to provide for these needs. Unfortunately, companies tend to be least prepared in addressing these human-side aspects of crisis. Responsible employers should establish in advance a Humanitarian Response Team, which is trained and poised to address specifically, and only, the human side of workplace tragedies.
To effectively deal with a crisis, companies should be able to react correctly when such situations arise. Being prepared for a crisis is about building the capacity of employees to tackle serious disasters by equipping them with the knowledge on how to make serious but important decisions that will safely steer the organization through the storm. HR teams must ensure that the strategic plan takes into account the health, safety and welfare of employees. Through collaboration with other organizational leaders, HR can assure that the human capital is taken care of in all crisis management and business continuity plans. Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- Explain what crisis management involves;
- Describe and identify different types of crisis;
- Describe the role of leadership in crisis.