Random Musings on Crisis Leadership

Crisis Leadership – An Opportunity in Waiting

When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.

– John F. Kennedy

I cannot agree more with this statement made by John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. These seemingly contrary elements, “danger” and “opportunity” are interdependent for without each other, they cannot be realized. Additionally, I realized that for a crisis to be transformed into an opportunity, it must be perceived through the lenses of a  dedicated leader that is willing to stand in the gap and see through the crisis with fervor. A crisis can be characterized as an event or a series of events that threatens to harm people or an organization, including its stakeholders and could possibly have a detrimental effect on an entire industry or economy if it has not been managed efficiently and effectively by the right hands (Andrianopoulos, 2019). According to Andrianopoulos, crises can be divided into categories such as economic where there is a  market failure, strikes, manpower shortages and informational such as the loss of information or the leaking of sensitive data. Reputational crises would include rumors or slander that could ruin the reputation of an organization. Crises also include psychopathic acts such as terror attacks or tampering with products and even natural disasters or diseases.  

From my research and readings, I have come to the realization that crises are usually sudden, ambiguous situations that have high consequences with a time pressure to make the best decision that the situation warrants.

What is Crisis Management?

So, since I have learned what a crisis is, I asked myself, “How do we manage it?”. How do we transform a crisis into an opportunity? Firstly, I researched what does crisis management entails and it tells me that it is how an organization deals with the threat.

How do leaders emerge from a crisis?

Drawing on the late minister mentor of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, I have come to appreciate his foresight and steady decision-making strategy that he had employed in moments of crises. Reading his personal reflections on leadership, he mentioned that nobody picked him out, it all happened as a result of natural selection, where he rose to the occasion to pave the way for Singapore to arise from the dire economic predicaments faced when it first gained its independence to the first class country that it is today. His leadership emerged through struggle and as he served as the senior minister since 1990 and have been elected Prime minister for eight terms, he lamented that he could only find a few potential leaders out of multitudes.

What are the skills required of a leader in a crisis?

Mr. Lee, bearing a pessimistic view, he likened potential leaders as sheepdogs where those who have both the head and heart will require less training to be great leaders especially in times of instability and have been successful in creating wealth and distributing it after learning from the mistakes of India and Indonesia when leading an anti-colonial struggle. From reading his personal reflections , it is evident that the skills required of a leader in a crisis are natural urge/or affinity, foresight or vision, and keen observation. In conclusion, I have come to believe,  that a leader needs to have a natural urge to lead with dedication and foresight however,  they are few in numbers. To lead in a crisis or to be always be prepared for a crisis, an effective leader must have vital information that he/she can tap and utilize in making the best decision that the situation requires. In order to have such information readily and constructively available, it requires a lot of keen observations, monitoring and their own analysis of the current landscape in which the organisation operates.

“I have no headline material to offer you tonight. In fact, I believe that the art of Government is, in part, the art of not creating headlines in the world press.” Speech at Foreign Correspondents Association, 16th Sep, 1959, Lee Kuan Yew in his own words, 1959-1970


Andrianopoulos, A. (2015). Essential Steps for Crisis Management and Crisis Containment. [online] Available at:

https://www.acg.edu/ckeditor_assets/attachments/1568/essential_steps_for_crisis_management_and_crisis_containment.pdf [Accessed 2 Apr. 2019].

Kuan Yew, L. (n.d.). [online] Available at: http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/leadership/ personal reflections on leadership.html [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s