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  5. Leading Through a Crisis – Part Two

Leading Through a Crisis – Part Two

A life preserver ring in the water

So, you’ve got a decision-making framework in place for when the worst happens. And you have your incident response and crisis communication plan in place.

But what leadership style approach work best?

And how can leaders avoid groupthink and biases impacting decisions?

Leaders will have their natural style. But they should also consider using parts of different styles during a crisis.

During our leadership and management skills training courses, we explore Kurt Lewin’s leadership styles model. And the different styles he identified have a role to play in crisis leadership.

“Whoever is leading the crisis can use different leadership approaches at different stages in the crisis,” Dan Boniface, our head of training, said.

“For example, an autocratic approach, which is task driven – ‘this is what we are going to do, and this is how we are going to do it’ – can work well in the initial stages of a crisis, where we may need to take the emotional side out and deal with the facts.

“Later, we might change to a democratic or laissez-faire approach.

“Democratic leadership is where we bring in the views of other people. You are still the decision maker, but you take in the views of the experts around you.

“The laissez-faire approach is about delegating tasks to others.”

The fourth main leadership style is called bureaucratic and is about being ‘by the book’.

“This is where you work within defined parameters,” Dan said. “If the crisis involves the Health and Safety Executive or GDPR, for example, you may have to ensure you meet some clearly defined criteria.”

Decision making

Effective crisis management depends on the decision-making abilities of leaders.

But making a decision during a crisis is not easy for even the most clear-headed and experienced leaders.

You need a clear understanding of what has gone wrong and the cause. Lack of knowledge, assumption, rumour and speculation can all create obstacles.

And groupthink and bias can create further barriers to strategic decision-making. Groupthink happens when the desire for group cohesion overrides the right decision. An often cited example is the Challenger space shuttle disaster, where a decision was taken to go ahead with the launch despite faulty parts. And biases is where decisions are impacted by things like our values, views and experiences.

This is why Dan believes leaders should keep in mind a decision-making model we use during our leadership and management skills training courses. It is called De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

He said: “This is one of my favourite decision-making tools. But you must approach it with an open mind.

“When we make a decision, we tend to base it on our bias, experiences and knowledge.

“That's not to say it is incorrect. But sometimes, we become blinkered by our own experiences. “This approach allows for cognitive diversity, which is thinking from different angles and taking in other people's viewpoints because they see something from a different perspective.”

The blue hat defines the problem, steers the group and sets the focus.

The red one explores emotions and feelings and uses intuition and gut instinct.

The yellow hat is positive, optimistic and constructive and probes benefits.

The green one offers creative solutions, is innovative and searches for alternatives.

The wearer of the white hat offers critical analysis and focuses on facts, figures and information.

And the black hat looks at risks, dangers and negatives.

Dan said: “This is such a good decision-making model because I can either bring in six different people that by default wear a different coloured hat. Or I can apply these perspectives myself.

“So metaphorically, I can put my red hat on and think about how people will feel during this crisis. I can take that off and put a green hat on and think creatively about solutions and ways forward to get out of this crisis.

“I could also have a black hat on and think about the risks and the dangers if I move forward at that moment.

“The model allows us to get away from our natural response and make good decisions.”

This is the second in a three-part series exploring how leaders can lead their organisation through a crisis. You can catch up with the first blog here.

In the next post we will explore the importance of self-awareness and self-regulation, the communication barriers leaders could face and how to lead through a long-running crisis.

Need more help in the meantime? Speak to us about our bespoke leadership crisis training courses.

We also have a new range of online training courses.

Our online First Line Manager training course has been created to help them make the first steps into management. It is ideal for assistant managers, supervisors, office managers, foremen or shift managers – anyone who has been asked to make the leap from high performer to manager.

Have you got leaders with management responsibilities but no formal training, who are serious about developing their essential skills and abilities? Our online ILM Level 3 Leadership and Management course will help them lead people through organisational change, budget cuts and other pressures. And move up to the next level of management.

Our ILM Level 5 Certificate in Leadership and Management online training is created for senior and middle managers. It will help them develop their skills and experience, improve performance of themselves and the organisation, be able to understand and affect a positive cultural organisation, and innovate and implement change.

And our new online ILM Level 5 certificate in coaching and mentoring course is perfect for those who want to provide coaching - and mentoring - for others. A skilled coach or mentor is increasingly crucial for every organisation as work moves away from command-and-control styles.

The BCF Group has been helping organisations develop their talent, inspire their people and overcome obstacles and challenges for the past 25 years.

We deliver training that makes a difference. Find out more about our business coaching, management training and interpersonal skills options.

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