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June 2017 Page 1

June 2017 Page 1


Crisis Leadership


“The demonstration of caring is more

important than all other leadership traits

combined…..Caring during crisis response

is not a feeling. Caring is a set of corporate

and personal behaviors that elicit the

perception that you and your organization

truly care.”

“People tend to be resilient and have

coping mechanisms that allow them to

return to a state of balance that is much

the same as prior to the crisis situation or

event. This is not to say that those who

experience devastating events will not

experience difficult adjustments. They will.

But we know from experience that human

beings in crisis are adaptable.

Most people will recover and the recovery

process can be accelerated when leaders

and managers offer and provide support.”

Bruce T. Blythe
Author of Blindsided, a Manager’s Guide to
Crisis Leadership

Interagency Critical Incident Stress Management Program

Crisis Leadership: is more about who you are than what you
know. Effective leaders connect deeply with their people,
nowhere more than during a crisis. No set of preparedness
strategies, or leadership techniques, will overcome a lack of
character, ethics or integrity.

Communication: is the single most important action you can
take. The process involves not only how you listen in order to
obtain the facts but also how well you speak openly and clearly
with those impacted, their families, cooperators, upper level
management and the public.

Anticipation: Good crisis leaders look out the windshield of the
crisis to identify what is on the horizon and balance their
perspectives on immediate and short-term focus; keeping in mind
where they and the organization may be headed.

Delegate: The only way to manage rapidly emerging issues
following a critical event is to utilize resources available to you.
Assess priority issues and enlist available persons to take action
on the delegated tasks. Doing so puts you in a position to
continue addressing the crisis.

Reactions: Ultimately, strategic crisis management is about
managing the reactions of people. Whether the crisis involves
multiple deaths or injuries, a suicide or other incident, the steps
you take will be to manage the reactions of people.

Be visible, open, and available: Highly visible leaders who
communicate directly with employees tend to be more effective
than those who are not accessible and communicate through
email rather than in person.

Leadership is always an opportunity to reinforce and build trust,
confidence, and workplace cohesiveness. When done well,
employees will feel cared about, supported, and secure in the
knowledge that leadership is both compassionate and competent.

Feeling cared about and supported in the immediate aftermath of
a traumatic event is hugely important in the healing and recovery

Confidence in Leadership, Their Mission

and Hope for the Future

June 2017 Page 2

 Ensure physical safety: remove people from the

incident site and treat their physical injuries.
 Avoid unnecessary exposure of other staff,

media, and the public.

The Single Most Important Action is Calm Effective

 Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
Particularly in the first few hours after a
tragedy, information will be scarce and likely

 Keep staff informed and prevent the spread of
rumors. Provide information about the status of
the event, any ongoing emergency support,
and the health status of anyone who has been

 Avoid statements like “it will be alright” or “I
know how you feel.” Phrases such as these
may cause an individual to think their feelings
are not understood.

Connectedness with Peers, the Organization,

 Don’t send people home or put them on leave if
at all possible. It is far better (i.e. less likely
post traumatic illness symptoms will follow) if
they get on with a routine and are with “the

 Immediate support is best provided by being
with and sharing experiences with work
colleagues and friends, rather than separating

 Wherever possible, re-establish normal working
routines as soon as possible, albeit gently and
flexibly, and enable people to talk about what
has happened as they work, thereby avoiding
any onset of denial.

 If leave is required find out what employees are
planning to do with their time once they leave
work and check in with them by phone.
Encourage them to spend time with friends or
family members.

The Skills and Resources to Cope

 Ask employees and managers to be on the
lookout for those who are in obvious need of
help and bring them to your attention.

 Consider professional crisis intervention.
 Employees who have experienced trauma

respond best to information, structure, and
instructions on what to expect next.

Support after a Critical Incident

Managers who have experienced a critical incident offer
these insights on what they experienced after the

Effects on Managers

 “I was surrounded by people, but felt all alone.”

 Others have been through similar things like
this, but no one has been through this (my
situation and the loss, injury or other events
involving this organization and these

 “After the death, I recognized responsibilities
that I didn’t even know I had.”

 The difficulty of losing an employee who is also
a dear friend and how to address the multiple
facets that the loss represents.

 The feeling that, as a manager, you must “be
the things to all people” and the effects that has
on personal and professional life.

 The difficulty and importance of seeking and
accepting help.

 How a critical incident affects the manager’s
family, especially the spousal relationship.

 A critical incident, especially a line of duty death
often affects the way managers feel about the
work they have always loved. “I used to look
forward to fighting fires. Now I dread it when I
get the call.”

 Some managers felt relief that they pushed
hard for safety before the incident. Others felt
frustrated that they had done everything right
and still experienced severe injury or lost

 Feelings of guilt and responsibility. “Could I
have done more?”

 There is no way around feeling guilt after a
critical incident not matter what the
circumstances. But you can’t let it consume
you or play the “what if game.”

 “The experience forced me to learn. “

What Happens to Managers after a

Critical Incident?


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