In April 2017, the internet exploded with the viral video of a passenger being dragged from United Express Flight 3411 by security and law enforcement officers in Chicago after refusing to exit the aircraft after the flight had been overbooked.
The aftermath of this incident resulted in a significant reputational crisis for United Airlines. The airline’s initial response through a statement by United CEO Oscar Munoz appeared to downplay the incident, resulting in even greater backlash. Munoz later had to issue a second statement apologizing for the incident a few days later. The airline struggled to recover after the incident and later settled with the passenger.
In a scenario like this, having the right crisis leader in place could have significantly influenced United’s response and overall resilience.
Whether the crisis is a natural disaster, a cyberattack, or a global pandemic, the capacity to handle a crisis with composure, rationality, and strategic decision-making can mean the difference between survival and failure.
In this article, we’ll explore several topics to help ensure your crisis leader is set up for success.
- How to attract the right candidates for a crisis leader
- Key qualities to look for in a crisis leader
- Strategies for onboarding and supporting your new leader
How to Attract the Right Crisis Leader
Recently, organizations have found it difficult to hire the right people. Remote work, increased competition, changes in job descriptions, and shifts in organizational priorities have become a few of the challenges organizations face when hiring the right people.
This is especially true in the resilience profession, as the pandemic has increased the demand for business continuity, crisis management, and disaster recovery professionals, creating a massive war for talent.
So how do you find the right people to fill the role of crisis leader?
- Create a compelling job description: A well-crafted job description is critical to attracting the right applicants. It should outline the roles and responsibilities of the crisis leader as well as the skills and experience necessary for success. Highlighting your organization’s values, culture, and mission in the job description will also help you attract candidates who align with your values.
- Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits: To attract the best, you must be competitive compared to other companies. Ensure that the salary and benefits package aligns with industry standards and the expectations of the position.
- Consider a remote or hybrid candidate: New technologies that have enabled remote work have widened the pool of potential candidates. Being able to offer a remote or hybrid position will allow you to have more success in hiring someone with your specific wants and needs.
- Promote the Opportunity for Impact: A crisis leader has the opportunity to make a significant impact on an organization and its stakeholders. Emphasize this opportunity for impact during the recruitment process to attract candidates who are passionate about making a difference.
Key Qualities to Look for in a Crisis Leader
A crisis leader must be skilled in many different areas, but each organization’s needs are different depending on whether there is an existing program. If your organization has a program with a team of subject matter experts, then you likely just need someone to lead that team and mature your program; they don’t necessarily need to be an expert. If you have no program at all, you’ll need an expert who ideally has experience building a program from scratch.
Below are just a few of the qualities of a great crisis leader.
- Leadership Abilities: A member of our team at Bryghtpath worked at a firm where the VP of business continuity was well-experienced in the industry but struggled to lead others effectively. Ultimately this hurt the continuity program’s ability to establish resilience in the organization. The ability your crisis leader has actually to lead their team is what will make or break your program. You need someone who is not just an individual contributor but can coach your entire team to success.
- Establish Program Importance: If your crisis leader does not take the program seriously, no one else will. Many leaders do not make themselves or their program important because they don’t want to “bug people.” Your crisis leader needs to handle being an effective champion for your program.
- Operates on a Strategic Level: A mistake that professionals in the industry easily make is not aligning with the organization’s long-term strategy and objectives. Your crisis leader needs to be able to align the program with the organization’s future goals and strategies to ensure the program’s success.
- Decisiveness: A crisis leader must be able to make decisions quickly and effectively. They must be able to gather information, analyze it, and make decisions that are in the organization’s or community’s best interest. A crisis leader who is indecisive or hesitant can cause confusion and delay, which can worsen the crisis.
- Communication: Effective communication is critical during a crisis. A crisis leader must communicate clearly and calmly with all stakeholders, including employees, customers, partners, and the media, especially during a crisis. When communicating, they should be able to explain information in a way everyone can understand, including people not on their team. Good communication can help to build trust, calm fears, and prevent misinformation from spreading.
- Adaptability: A crisis can be unpredictable, and circumstances can change rapidly. A crisis leader must be able to adapt to new information and make necessary adjustments to their plans. They must be flexible and open-minded, willing to consider new ideas and approaches to resolve the crisis. This means being able to receive constructive criticism and make changes if necessary.
- Stress management: Crisis situations or planning for crises can be highly stressful and challenging. A crisis leader must be able to manage their stress levels and remain focused and composed under pressure. They must also be able to provide support and guidance to their team members, who may also be experiencing high-stress levels.
Supporting Your Crisis Leader
Once you have chosen the right crisis leader, providing them with the necessary resources and support is crucial for them to succeed. Giving them:
- Access to relevant information, training, and support from other team members. This could include paying for professional certification, training, conferences, and additional education to ensure your crisis leader is current on their strategies. In some cases, hiring a coach or strategic advisor can help your crisis leader excel at their role.
- A clear understanding of their responsibilities and the program’s goals and objectives.
- Authority to make decisions quickly, with the organization’s support.
- Flexibility to adjust their strategies based on changing circumstances.
- Many jobs are available right now, so having proper benefits and incentives to stay is a great way to keep your crisis leader.
A strong crisis leader plays a critical role in the survival and success of an organization during a crisis, whether it be a natural disaster, cyberattack, or pandemic.
With the right crisis leader, an organization can navigate a crisis with composure, rationality, and strategic decision-making, leading to survival and success.
Want to work with us or learn more about choosing the right crisis leader?
- Our proprietary Resiliency Diagnosis process is the perfect way to advance your business continuity & crisis management program. Our thorough standards-based review culminates in a full report, maturity model scoring, and a clear set of recommendations for improvement.
- Our Crisis Management services help you rapidly grow and mature your program to ensure your organization is prepared for the storms that lie ahead.
- Our Crisis Management Academy is a complete online course that builds strong crisis leaders & effective crisis programs.
- Our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management contains everything you need to know about Crisis Management.
- Learn about our Free Resources, including articles, a resource library, white papers, reports, free introductory courses, webinars, and more.
- If you aren’t sure where to start, then set up a 1:1 Coaching call with our Chief Executive Bryan Strawser.
- Set up an initial call to discuss how we might work together to choose your crisis leader.