Leadership in a Time of Crisis


leadership in crisis management

Regardless of the industry, today’s enterprises are facing a series of challenges that are unlike those we have seen in generations. At Europe Emirates Group, we pride ourselves on offering our clients the utmost level of service, and that includes operating as usual while taking precautions that maintain the health and safety of our employees and clients across our jurisdictions. What should business executives know about leadership in a time of crisis? We have taken stock of some fundamental principles that will prove useful in this time.  

How do you lead in a crisis?

This question is undoubtedly in the top-of-mind of many of us at this moment. In an era full of uncertainty, many of our preconceived notions do not apply as they would in a general crisis. Leadership in an ever-changing crisis has distinct traits, and as such, we must adapt our management principles to follow suit. 

McKinsey recommends creating a network of teams instead of giving in to the urge to establish top-down responses. While they admit that few organisations have previously implemented this strategy, the network of teams consists of “...a highly adaptable assembly of groups, which are united by a common purpose and work together in much the same way that the individuals on a single team collaborate.” The network of teams collaborates not only on adjusting normal business activities but on any responses that may be outside the enterprise’s routine scope. 

How can you make your network of teams a success? Instead of operating on your natural inclination to have all decision-making go through you and have a tight grip on information, you should instead distribute authority throughout your network of teams. You should also give them all the knowledge they need and to exemplify the desired qualities to the rest of your organisation. 

When it comes to decision-making, you will also have to change your approach as well. Since you will not have all the information at hand, consider the pause-assess-anticipate-act cycle. The theory behind this crisis leadership method is that it will help leaders maintain the deliberate calm that is vital. Leadership in crisis management in this cycle should be ongoing so you can pause your crisis mode to assess the new information coming in from your network of teams to reflect and think ahead before making your next moves. While you may inevitably not have those chances to pause, you’ll have an opportunity to update yourself before deciding with resolve for your organisation.


How should a leader communicate in a crisis?

We can think of countless examples of crisis communication strategies falling flat, and in a context full of uncertainty, communications must be deliberate. First and foremost, even if you do not have all the answers, you should always display the highest possible level of transparency, according to Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Corporate Communication Professor Paul Argenti.

What are Argenti’s other pieces of advice to effective crisis communications? His first recommendation is to establish a team that takes responsibility for all messaging of about five to seven people. They should meet regularly and serve as the primary sources of information while consistently updating stakeholders, all while being succinct and maintaining the highest level of transparency you can. 

Communicating with your employees is crucial learning we can take from crisis leadership examples. Argenti ran a study of crisis communication following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and subjects commented that “...how important it was to hear the voice of the leader, whether live or through email, phone messages, or social media.” Not only should you include information about how you made critical decisions, but you should disseminate the data over a public channel such as email or a corporate intranet and ensure your communications be at least every other day.

The same applies to when you communicate with your customers. We at Europe Emirates Group followed suit both in an email communiqué and over social media. Empathy should be at the core of these messages rather than overt promotions; this will ensure you remain in tune with the current zeitgeist. We have seen countless examples of this in our emails over the past few weeks. These include how retailers such as Target would be carrying out deep-cleaning to protect customers and how smaller direct-to-consumer brands would be contributing a portion of their sales to charities to support those impacted by the crisis. If your business can provide relief, such as Delta Airlines and others waiving change fees for affected passengers, you should consider doing so and transmitting in it in your notes to customers. 

We can find examples of crisis communications leadership in how Johnson & Johnson handled a crisis with its Tylenol medication in the autumn of 1982. They used the situation to develop crisis communication best practices, with “...speaking early, often, and directly with its consumers…” at the core of its strategy. Their work allowed them to recover 95% of their market share within months of the crisis breaking out, proving that if you can adapt your leadership and communication styles in emergencies, it can work to boost your rapport for your clientele afterwards.  


Are you looking for support for your business?

At Europe Emirates Group, we are continuously striving to support your enterprise through any circumstance. Our comprehensive offerings deliver the highest level of service in the industry and the frontline support you may need. Should you need any guidance from any of our expert practitioners, do not hesitate to reach out to our team today.


Written by

Adrian Oton, CEO Europe Emirates Group 

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