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10 Key Elements to Good Crisis Leaders

Remaining calm is not on the list.

This item 10 Key Elements to Good Crisis Leaders combines two of the three subject areas I like to read about and blog on.

If I was to add one to the list, or substitute one, it would be "calmness." We (back when I was the director of emergency management for King County, Wash.) once did a simulation exercise that included role playing. The idea was to stress people in an artificial environment and see how the team functioned and how individuals responded. True to form, our boss at the time was put under stress and he started "spinning up" like he did in the normal workday environment.

I've never really worked for a "screamer." But in the 1st Armored Division Headquarters, 34 years ago, there was talk among the staff about putting a nuclear radiation hazard sign on the doors to the commander's office. That was because people would have meetings with the commanding general, they they would end up coming out and glowing from being "nuked" by the experience. 

Remaining "calm" while you yourself are being stressed helps other remain calm and focused. If you exhibit anger, frustration via your language and physical posture, all that does it ratchet up everyone's stress levels, and that in the end will impact their ability to perform. 

However, let me qualify with this comment. If the leader comes into an operations center and people are "kicked back" waiting for things to happen and not being proactive, it might require a bit of "motivation" to get people moving and doing their job.  

This is the complexity of leadership. You cannot use the words "always" for every situation. Except, I'd say No. 1 on the list above must be part and parcel of who you are — in order to be effective and have an enduring legacy. 


Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.