6 leadership skills to develop for crisis management

by | Oct 3, 2023 | Public Relations

In times of crisis, PR managers rely on the skills we’ve developed over the years to make quick decisions and handle emergencies. Many businesses are facing difficult times and in need of crisis leadership skills more than ever. This article covers essential skills for leaders and PR managers to help you learn from a crisis and prepare for the next one. 

Crisis management in review

Crisis management is when organizations, the individuals within it, and specialist PR teams deal with a sudden and significant negative event or series of events that threaten to harm the business, its stakeholders, or the general public. These events might include natural disasters, accidents, personnel issues, public relations nightmares, and legal liabilities.

Finding managers with effective crisis leadership skills is essential to any business’s smooth running. Businesses may need to consider crisis leadership when implementing a hiring management system or during their onboarding training. 

6 leadership skills to develop for crisis management

Image sourced from Ethisphere 

Lots of members of a business are involved in crisis management, but company leaders and PR managers are often the ones most heavily relied upon to handle emergencies. 

For leaders and their teams, crisis management can be broken down into several stages:

  • Prevention: This involves risk assessment and establishing processes and policies to minimize the chance of a crisis occurring.
  • Preparation: Even with preventive measures, no organization is immune from potential crises. Businesses often develop crisis management plans to help all employees know what to do in a crisis.
  • Response: When a crisis occurs, a quick and effective response is crucial. This can mean making difficult decisions under pressure. Effective communication—both internally and externally—is key. 
  • Recovery: After the immediate crisis has been dealt with, the focus shifts to recovery. This might involve restoring operations or even rebuilding damaged reputations.
  • Learning: Organizations should analyze the crisis and their response to it, identifying what went well and where improvements could be made. 

6 crisis leadership skills every manager should have

1. Decisiveness

At work, we make decisions all the time, from hiring choices to picking a business domain name. Yet during a crisis, time is often of the essence. We must make important decisions quickly, often with incomplete information. 

Crisis leadership skills that require decisiveness involve the ability to analyze available data, consult with key stakeholders when possible, and make a call. Waffling or being indecisive can worsen the situation.

Development tips:
  • Decision-making exercises: Regularly expose yourself to scenarios that require swift decisions. Over time, this hones your ability to decide under pressure.
  • Learn from past decisions: Reflect on past decisions, particularly ones that didn’t turn out as expected. Ask yourself what could have been done differently and how you would react next time.

2. Excellent communication skills

A leader must be able to communicate clearly, transparently, and regularly during a crisis. In a crisis situation, you’ll need to communicate with employees, customers, clients, and stakeholders to explain the situation and what is being done about it. 

6 leadership skills to develop for crisis management

Image sourced from capterra.com  

Development tips:
  • Public speaking courses: Online and in-person public speaking courses can help you improve your speaking and presentation skills.
  • Writing workshops: Take part in workshops or classes that focus on clear and concise writing for emails and press releases.
  • Active listening: Practice active listening, whether in person or on a cloud call, which involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what the other person is saying.

3. Emotional intelligence

A high level of emotional intelligence will help you recognize and understand both your own emotions and the emotions and sentiments of those around you. Recognizing when team members are stressed or overwhelmed and addressing those feelings can be pivotal during challenging times.

Development tips:
  • Self-awareness exercises: Regularly assess and reflect on your emotions — journaling can be helpful.
  • Empathy training: Engage in exercises or training that fosters empathy, like role-playing exercises.
  • Feedback: Ask your co-workers to provide feedback on your people skills and get some insight into how you come across.

4. Adaptability

Crises are unpredictable by nature, so you must be flexible and willing to change course if necessary. This requires an open mind alongside a willingness to listen to feedback and an ability to adjust strategies on the fly.

Development tips:
  • Diversify your experiences: Put yourself in varied roles and situations to get used to different challenges. Also, consider the diversity metrics of your organization to ensure a wide range of perspectives. 
  • Continuous learning: Stay updated with the latest trends and changes in your industry. \

5. Resilience

A key crisis leadership skill is the ability to keep a clear head under pressure. Managers and PR teams should be able to manage their own stress effectively. Strong leaders need to bounce back from setbacks and keep team morale high, all while handling crisis communications

6 leadership skills to develop for crisis management

Image sourced from pwc.com 

Development tips:
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Engage in practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to manage stress.
  • Seek support: Build a strong support network of friends, family, or colleagues to discuss and process challenges with.

6. Forward-thinking

Even in the midst of a crisis, effective crisis leadership is always forward-thinking. Even decisions that are made quickly, for example, in a financial crisis, will have a long-term impact. Effective leaders must be sensitive to this at all times. 

Development tips:
  • Industry knowledge: Continuously educate yourself on industry trends and attend seminars in your field.
  • NetworkingStrategic planning workshops: Engage in or organize workshops that focus on building future strategies. Consider ways to integrate crisis leadership skills into your existing project management system
  • : Engage with other leaders and managers in your field—they can help shape your own views and approach to crisis management.

Conclusion: Creating a team with crisis leadership skills

Crisis response isn’t just about the actions of an organization’s leaders and PR managers. Every member of a company needs to play a role. While the above tips for crisis leadership skills development are focused on leaders, it’s worth exploring how these skills can be transmitted to all employees in PR and beyond.

Make sure the above six skills are an essential part of training, regular workshops, and team discussions to ensure that everyone at your business is ready to face difficult situations. 

Natasha Thakkar
Natasha Thakkar brings over a decade of marketing expertise to her role as Content Marketing Manager at Oleeo, a tech company that specializes in producing recruitment software solutions. Skilled in lead generation and communication, Natasha shapes content that enhances Oleeo's brand and resonates with audiences. With experience handling global campaigns and an approach rooted in innovation and engagement, she excels in strategic campaigns, skillfully adapting to trends and connecting with audiences to optimize visibility. Connect with Natasha on LinkedIn.


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