The way a leader performs during a crisis can make or break a company. Caroline Sapriel, a Lecturer in crisis management, explains in her article on CS&A website how important a CEO is in mitigating the fallout from a crisis. When the crisis breaks, the business will look to the CEO for guidance, and they need to be the strong, decisive voice of the company, handling external and internal challenges promptly and effectively.

Crisis Management Planning

It is the CEO’s responsibility as a “guardian of corporate reputation” to ensure the business is ready and resilient if a crisis were to happen. In Deloitte’s article on Crisis Leadership, it spells out what a robust crisis management plan should look like. It includes risk assessment, scenario planning, and “war game” simulation at the preparation stage. When a crisis triggers the plan into action, it should include real-time response and post-crisis assessment, overviewed by 24/7 monitoring and constant communication.

The nature of the crisis could be manifold, and it is a wise move to have a team with diverse talent to handle it effectively. However, ultimately, it is the CEO’s responsibility to weigh all the variables and decide what sort of crisis management plan to put in place and who is best positioned to manage this should such an occasion arise. Both Sapriel and Deloitte agree that the CEO may not be the best person to lead the crisis management team. The CEOs role is not to be bogged down by the minutiae. He should be able to step back, remove himself from the drama and look at the way the crisis is unfolding objectively.

Respond Swiftly

We are living in a world where news can be amplified through social media. A mere whiff of a scandal can now can travel quicker than a flash of lightning, and before senior managers can gather enough information to mitigate the crisis, the damage could have already occurred. Addressing the issue quickly can demonstrate control. Acknowledging there are shortfalls and the company is addressing these can go a long way to calming any hysteria.

Be a Visible Leader

In times of crisis, the visibility of the CEO is essential. They should be the face of the brand and always show genuine concern for those affected. A visibly calm and in-control leader can rally the troops at the base while also extending a positive image. A contrite leader who acknowledges the mistake and apologizes can also buy goodwill from the public

While it is important that the CEO is visible, it does not mean that they need to answer every question and take every interview. It is the role of the crisis team to answer the bulk of these while the CEO should only be available for interviews that have a higher impact, be it a live interview on national TV or a planned press conference. This is to protect the CEO from media fatigue that can occur.

Do you have questions about your company’s emergency response strategy? If so, contact me today.