In the eye of a storm, the steadiness of the ship largely depends on the captain’s resolve.

The same holds during organizational crises: the effectiveness of leadership can make or break the outcome. As we navigate through the unpredictable waters of the 9th Annual International Crisis Management Conference in Newport, RI, it’s crucial to underscore the role of leadership in steering through tumultuous times. 

The Essence of Crisis Leadership 

Crisis leadership transcends the routine decision-making of everyday business. It demands rapid yet calculated responses under pressure, a deep sense of empathy, and a communication style that resonates with clarity and confidence. Unlike conventional leadership, crisis leadership requires extraordinary resilience and the ability to maintain composure, providing direction and reassurance in the face of uncertainty. 

Critical Strategies for Leading Effectively During Crises 

  1. Prioritizing Clear Communication 

In times of crisis, information vacuums can lead to rumors and fear, exacerbating an already tense situation. Influential leaders prioritize clear, transparent, and timely communication. They ensure that all stakeholders, from employees to customers, are regularly informed about the problem, actions being taken, and what is expected of them. 

  1. Decision-Making Under Pressure 

Crises often require swift decisions with limited information. Leaders must balance the urgency of immediate actions with the foresight of their long-term implications. This involves gathering as much information as possible, swiftly evaluating options, and making informed decisions that consider both the organization’s and its stakeholders’ short- and long-term well-being. 

  1. Empowering and Supporting Your Team 

Leaders must foster a supportive atmosphere that empowers team members to take the initiative and act resiliently. Demonstrating emotional intelligence—recognizing, understanding, and managing one’s own emotions and those of the team—is crucial. Leaders should address their team’s needs, fears, and concerns, providing a solid support system that encourages resilience. 

  1. Staying Adaptable and Learning on the Fly 

The only constant in a crisis is change. Influential crisis leaders are adaptable and ready to adjust strategies as new information becomes available. This agility enables organizations to navigate crises more fluidly, learning from each challenge and adapting their approach accordingly. 

  1. Leading by Example: The Power of Presence 

A leader’s physical and emotional presence can be a powerful morale booster. Being on the ground, showing solidarity with your team, and facing challenges together can bolster confidence and trust among team members and stakeholders. 

Resource: The 9th Annual International Crisis Management Conference – Newport, RI

Ernest Shackleton’s Masterclass in Crisis Leadership 

In August 1914, Ernest Shackleton embarked on a mission to make history by leading the first expedition to cross Antarctica. However, five months in, his ship, The Endurance, was trapped and eventually crushed by ice, leaving Shackleton and his 27-man crew stranded in one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth. 

Faced with freezing temperatures, limited resources, and no hope of immediate rescue, Shackleton’s leadership qualities were put to the ultimate test. He maintained morale and motivated his crew to stay focused on survival, demonstrating exceptional resilience, adaptability, and unwavering commitment to their well-being. 

After the Endurance sank, Shackleton led his men to camp on the ice. They survived on seals and canned goods, enduring the blistering cold. Realizing the need for a more proactive rescue plan, Shackleton and five others embarked on a perilous journey in a small lifeboat to reach South Georgia, navigating over 800 miles of treacherous ocean. 

Despite multiple failed attempts and near despair, Shackleton’s determination never wavered. On August 31, 1916, he successfully rescued all 22 men left on Elephant Island, ensuring not a single life was lost. Shackleton’s leadership during this crisis is a testament to his ability to inspire hope, make courageous decisions under pressure, and prioritize the safety and unity of his team above all else. 

This story of survival against the odds offers invaluable lessons on leading through crisis: 

  • The importance of adaptability 
  • The power of a positive, unified vision 
  • The necessity of relentless perseverance 

Shackleton’s journey is a masterclass in crisis management, showcasing what it means to lead with courage, empathy, and an unwavering commitment to your team. 

Building a Culture of Preparedness 

Effective crisis management starts long before a crisis hits. Leaders should cultivate a culture of preparedness within their organization, developing comprehensive crisis management plans, conducting regular training and simulations, and fostering an environment where every team member feels empowered to act decisively and confidently. 


The mark of a true leader is most visible during crises. Leaders can guide their organizations through the most challenging times by prioritizing clear communication, making informed decisions, supporting and empowering their team, remaining adaptable, and leading by example. As we reflect on the strategies discussed at the 9th Annual International Crisis Management Conference, let’s commit to being leaders who navigate crises and emerge more assertive on the other side. 

Call to Action 

In the comments below, we encourage you to share your experiences or strategies for leading during crises. For more insights and resources on crisis management and leadership development, continue exploring with us. Together, we can build a resilient future, prepared to face any crisis with confidence and effectiveness.