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The Top Leadership Characteristics Needed to Cope With Sudden and Smoldering Crisis

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Leadership is a well researched topic and many tomes have been written on it. But the study of Crisis Leadership or leadership exercised in a crisis is of more recent origin and researchers have only now started focusing their attention on this less explored facet of leadership

This paper focuses on sudden crisis and the leadership displayed during this crisis. Whereas, a smoldering crisis is a result of the management not taking cognizance of a brewing crisis and consequently not taking pre-emptive action in time. However, even in the case of a smoldering crisis, once it blows up into a full-fledged crisis the same crisis leadership skills will be required to handle the crisis, except that in most cases an outside leader may be brought in to deal with the crisis as the crisis itself was the result of the mismanagement of the previous incumbent.

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After the origin and the development of the concept, it is time to focus on the meanings of the concept of “crisis”, this will be explained trough five viewpoints and will be adapted to a business view

First, as mentioned before, in the juridical domain the crisis describes a discrimination meaning because the court has to examine and to decide in favour or not of the accused. Let’s start with the bad connotations of a crisis. In one hand, sometimes the company produces a kind of discrimination because it fired some employees or relocated the entire company leaving the country and creating unemployment. Secondly and thirdly, the medical area comports two other interesting meanings, because the meanings for the same term are radically different. One of them described the notion of crisis as a decisive moment for the patient but the other one as pathology. A crisis lived by a company can be represented as a pathology that led the company into bankruptcy. The crisis is also a decisive moment where leaders have to take decisive decision like the moment of truth that will be introduced later. A crisis can also be represented as a decisive moment for a company; the board of management has to take important decisions under pressure to emerge out the crisis and come back to a normal situation. Three terms are used in the Hippocratic vocabulary to define the medical process: crisis, lysis and death. The second one is interesting because it means a gradual healing. It’s accompanied of a “health schedule” realized by the medical help and is composed by decisive appointment where the patient’s organism and the disease have to struggle. Besides, the medical help is on the lookout for the slightest symptom which shows that the patient is fighting against his/her illness. In this situation, the crisis is interpreted as a sign of hope or resistance rather than a “bankruptcy”.

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Positive leaders have the capacity to plan, direct, monitor and evaluate policies implemented. In nutshell, peoples with positive leadership skills have recognition of the four factors of leadership coupled with ability to recognize the human nature, his or her job, organization and capacity and the role he/she has to enhance workers motivation. For success to be evident, individual accountability must remain deeply ingrained into the leadership work. Individual accountability both in contributing towards attainment of organization goals and the leader’s share in the organizational work structure must surface. Johnson (1993) provide an insight that “Individual accountability exist when the performance of each individual is assessed and the results given back to the organization and the individual in order to ascertain who needs more assistance, support, and encouragement” (p.45). Personal strengths based on assessment are both philosophical, practice and tools so designed to permit people set meaningless and crucial goals in life

The approach capacitates individuals to “draw upon both personal and environmental strengths to achieve the goals” (Zhivago, 2010, par.8). To support success, the strength assessment aid in developing strategies focusing on goal achievement and establishment of niches in which one can deploy individual strengths to demonstrate confidence shrouded by competence.

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In brief, it is vital that leaders not only demonstrate empathy but open themselves to empathy from others and remain attentive to their own well-being. As stress, fatigue, and uncertainty build up during a crisis, leaders might find that their abilities to process information, to remain levelheaded, and to exercise good judgment diminish

They will stand a better chance of countering functional declines if they encourage colleagues to express concern—and heed the warnings they are given. Investing time in their well-being will enable leaders to sustain their effectiveness over the weeks and months that a crisis can entail.

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Johnson, D. (1993). Reaching Out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-actualization Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Spence, J. (1983). Achievement-related Motives and Behavior: Achievement and Achievement Motives. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.

Zhivago, K. (2010). Revenue Increasing Insights, Strategies and Techniques for CEOs and Entrepreneurs Web.

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