Edited by Andrew J. DuBrin
Chapter 10: Leadership strategies and tactics for crisis management
Many executives can astutely recognize a crisis in that negative consequences begin to affect their ability to lead and become barriers to accomplishing organizational goals. Yet, when we ask executives how they should lead in a crisis situation very few can articulate an answer. This may be because most executives do not have formal training or experiences that have given them the knowledge, skills, abilities, and traits to engage in crisis leadership. Traditionally, a crisis is conceptualized as a low probability, high impact event that threatens the security and well-being of stakeholders and is characterized by ambiguous causes, effects, and means of resolution. As such, it requires decisions to be made quickly (Pearson and Clair, 1998). Others assert, however, that crisis events have become more common. With macro-environments characterized by complexity, rapid change, urgency, high stakes, and uncertainty, organizations confront a “permanent” state of crisis (Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, 2009). Take the case of the fast-food company, McDonald’s. In the last several years, executives at McDonald’s have confronted myriad crises: an exposé accusing a franchise of serving 90-minute-old chicken nuggets in Beijing; a drought crisis affecting corn production that drastically cut into the restaurant’s margins; consumers criticizing the controversial “pink s lime” beef product; the Food and Drug Administration condemning the company’s egg supplier; and losing control of the #McDStories hash tag on Twitter (Blair, 2012). The McDonald’s case highlights that crisis leadership is more likely to be a frequent activity for leaders.
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