Sunday, April 5, 2009

Crisis or Contingency Team Leader Characteristics

Pepperdine University conducted a survey of crisis management experts, and here are 14 characteristics they identified. List by Robert C. Chandler, Ph.D.

According to the study, a good crisis or contingency team leader should be:

1. Coordinated
An effective leader has coordination skills. He or she should have experience, knowledge, and/or training in how to get individuals to function together as a single unit. According to the respondents, a leader should have the ability to create team cohesion, team coordination, and integration.

2. Decisive
An effective leader should be able to make the right decisions during contingencies. Respondents to the survey suggested that inappropriate hesitation or reluctance to act undermined effective leadership.

3. Experienced
Leaders should have plenty of field experience to draw upon. The value of a seasoned veteran’s experiences is clearly indicated as a factor for effective leadership. Look for actual hands-on experience when selecting leaders. If everyone is a newcomer, it is imperative that the training regimen include plenty of mock drills, simulations, and hands-on training to increase the experience level of the designated leader.

4. Goal-Oriented
Effective leaders have goal-setting abilities. They are skillful in laying out short- and long-term goals, setting specific objectives, making task assignments to meet those goals, and following through to achieve them.

5. Able to Communicate
Leaders provide and solicit key information, engage in two-way communication, and interact in open and honest ways with others. They have the ability to communicate successfully, with few misunderstandings, in a wide variety of contexts and situations.

6. Able to Facilitate
Effective leaders are not dictators. Rather, they are able to get the most out of team members by facilitating input from others, creating a situation in which the team makes decisions in a collaborative manner, fostering team work, and creating a sense of cohesion among all team members.

7. Able to Handle Stress
Clearly, crises, contingencies, disaster recovery, and emergency management situations can be very stressful. Those who do not manage stress successfully are often failures at leading during these situations. Emotional and mental stability is a prerequisite for effective leadership. An effective leader has the capacity to remain calm, stable, and focused during the most chaotic periods. A sense of stability must be maintained in order to keep recovery efforts on track during the stressful periods of a crisis.

8. Able to Listen
It is imperative that leaders be good and active listeners, with the capacity to digest a large amount of information and different perspectives. The effective leader practices and trains to listen, and has the capability to exert active effort to understand, process, and evaluate others’ input.

9. Open-Minded
An effective leader is not dogmatic and “hard-headed,” but rather is open to differing viewpoints and perspectives. He or she is willing to “think outside the box” when considering solutions to contingency situations and has the ability to interpret and understand different ways of looking at an event.

10. Responsible
An effective leader takes ownership of and responsibility for the resolution of a contingency. A leader should take responsibility for the team, support team ownership of the crisis response, and shield the team from inappropriate external interference. It is also important for the leader to ensure that the team as a whole gets recognition for success.

11. Able to Prioritize
An effective leader must have the capacity to recognize which tasks must come first and which can be delayed, retain a clear sense of priorities of both purpose and process, and have knowledge of when to follow and when to deviate from the plan. Effective leaders have a sense of balance to recognize what issues need to be tackled first and which ones are key to resolving other decisions and solutions.

12. Able to Think Critically
A leader should possess problem/solution analysis and critical-thinking skills. According to the survey respondents, an effective leader should have the capacity to define, analyze, and understand the unique complexities of each crisis. Further, the leader should be able to critically analyze possible solutions and envision both the intended and unintended consequences of each solution. This requires a leader to read the unique aspects of every situation and to have a great capacity to visualize what it will look like once it has been implemented.

13. Adaptive
An effective leader should have the capacity to adapt and respond to unique aspects of crises and changing circumstances. Inflexibility, rigidity, and inability to adapt severely limit the effectiveness of a leader.

14. Trained and Prepared
The value of addressing leadership as a development and training goal was clearly endorsed in this survey. To be effective, one must be prepared for the role of leader by being thoroughly knowledgeable of the organization’s contingency plans and recovery operations; however, the leader also should be knowledgeable of the skills and capabilities of the members, the traits of all who are working on the crisis, and the overall purpose, function, responsibilities, and boundaries of the team during the crisis.

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