leader in crisis 7 things a leader should do in a crisis

7 Key Things Leaders should do and be in a crisis

Leader in Crisis


No matter how squeaky clean your credentials appear to be it doesn’t take much for a leaders reputation to be questioned in a crisis. It certainly hasn’t taken long for Lord Coe OBE to be put under the microscope in the wake of the IAAF drugs scandal.  Here’s how Twitter reacted:

When he was appointed President on the 19th August 2015 he appeared above reproach but just a couple of days ago personalities such as Daley Thompson were calling for him to take a tough stand on the issues that are dogging sport in general.

“What the whole situation needs is for its leader – and Seb Coe is the custodian of what I think is the greatest sport in the world – to stand up and show some leadership.”

Although the two men have been close friends the situation is such that something needed to be said in public.

Another 400 metres athlete, Rooney went as far as to say:

I’m a massive fan of Lord Coe, he is obviously a hero for a lot of British athletes, but I can’t believe he’s been in the IAAF since 2007 and not known what is going on…before all the revelations came out, he would have been the man for it. But now I’m not too sure.”

How has this happened?

No one is casting aspersions in any shape or form but questions are inevitably going to be raised under this particular set of circumstances. Maybe there are a few lessons to be learned for leaders regardless what niche they may inhabit.

Certainly how you deal with a crisis does define your leadership skills. It often comes with a built-in need to balance self preservation, communication and the needs of the organisation. This is quite a juggling act and requires dexterity.

Is Coe right when he says

“I think the one thing you develop over the years [of competing] is an ability to triage and prioritise issues.

You reach a point where you know what you have to do and you accept that tomorrow is a day where you have to achieve something else. The risk of that is you are focused and maybe not as emotional as people would like you to be. But you have no alternative but doing what you know you have to do.”

How far do you go to defend your organisation or put your hands up and begin over? Coe stated:

You can have all the corporate governance in the world, ethics committees and clearly we didn’t have enough of those and I have to accept that.”

So what might you do in a crisis? Here’s Tech Ventures list.

7 key things leaders should do and be in a crisis

Stay calm and dictate the pace

1. First of all take a metaphorical deep breath. Everyone will be demanding, talking, gossiping and chattering. Consider delegating aspects of the problem and then convene a meeting. Take it at your pace and restore order. This is critical as things can be said and done in the heat of the moment that may have serious long-term and negative consequences.

Less haste more speed

2. Don’t take too much time out. A prompt, thoughtful response utilising the appropriate vocabulary is key. ‘Less haste, more speed’ is appropriate here. Give enough but not too much. Balance the pragmatic with the emotional.

Demonstrate control

3. Show control even when you are ready to run off and hide. Planning, thinking carefully before deviating from a plan, and being proactive, are critical skills.

Manage expectations always

4. Manage stakeholders’ expectations. Do that alongside anyone else’s that may potentially damage you or your company. In a fierce storm, everyone wants it to end immediately. First of all, the size and extent of any drama needs to be ascertained. Quick wins seldom end up having that effect in the long run. Don’t panic anyone but don’t play down the significance. If you do it’s bound to be held up for ridicule if it proves otherwise. Managing expectations can wrest back an element of control, perspective and gain time.

Keep Cool

5. Model yourself on a fire chief who found himself losing out to a raging forest fire. His team tried to outrun the fire against his command. This was never going to be possible. The fire chief stood still and set alight to the grass around him. When the fire arrived there was nothing to burn. He survived but many of his team died. Managing a crisis is not about how much noise you can make to drown out the criticism; it’s about thinking, being agile and flexible regarding strategy. By all means keep learning but as Richard Branson says:

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen!”

Don’t try to do too much. Stand back and lead

6. You may feel that co-workers and those on the ground are critical of you not rolling up your sleeves but sometimes that’s exactly what you shouldn’t be doing. A leader needs to lead, to possess and communicate the vision and setting the compass. Think about that carefully.

Cultivate perspective and objectivity

7. Being in control you should have perspective and objectivity. Use it and don’t get embroiled in the fray. You can see far more when flailing fists are not beating you down. Bear in mind a commander is better off at the fire station where she can achieve much more when directing a response and understand the whole situation.

Whether you agree with Lord Coe or whether you question his knowledge of the scandal, what he does next will define both his leadership and the IAAF body. We wish him luck and good judgement.


Mirror Sport


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