This paper investigates various aspects of leadership that are beneficial during times of crisis and disaster. A motivating public servant can envision and devise practical policy solutions during the thick of a public disaster. Analysing a few examples and the research methodology used by policymakers, it becomes easier to deal with a crisis and overcome obstacles, as we will find out in the case of the San José rescue mission.
The term “crisis management” refers to a collection of standard operating procedures that must be followed in order to mitigate a possible crisis. To develop strength and competence, it is essential to make wise judgments in a crisis and learn from the experience. Crisis management can be seen as a management model developed for effectively handling an unusual situation that emerges suddenly. This disrupts routine functioning and makes decisions more challenging, increasing risk, stress, and conflict.
To implement an effective crisis management strategy, public administrators must be knowledgeable and skilled in crisis management and be committed to allocating resources for crisis mitigation.
If an organization does not invest in emergency preparedness or disaster recovery plans, then it becomes a high-risk gamble that endangers human lives and incurs economic and response costs. 5 World Bank and world health organization (WHO) investigation indicates that most countries would need to spend an average of between $1 and $2 per person per year to reach an acceptable level of pandemic preparedness. 4WHO has made it mandatory for health system institutions to have an efficient crisis management system. It has been mentioned in the report that 1.5 billion people including children and women have been affected by health-related crises.
2 In the case of risk assessment, it is observed that it precedes the emergency. This is different from a needs assessment that arrives after a crisis or hazard impact. Public administrators can ensure effective methodology to deal with crisis management only if they are knowledgeable and skilled in crisis mitigation. They are to be committed to allocating resources during crisis preparedness and management.
Risk is different from hazard because risk can be understood as a probability and can be calculated. A hazard is a potential that can be assessed but not calculated. Thus, the two notions are different. For instance, if a city is established on the line of two tectonic plates, the hazard of an earthquake is present, but the risk or the likelihood of an earthquake taking place cannot be estimated unless there is an account of past events.
There are four general ways a crisis can be recognized, which are discussed below:
The crisis is self-evident means when a crisis takes place, its description of scholarly work and media coverage is clear. The description of the event speaks for itself. One does not have to go through a dictionary or guidebook to confirm if it is a crisis. The headline instantly prompts the reader that there is a crisis or situation close by. During an outbreak, the type of information disseminated on social media by government officials must provide a reassuring tone to the general public. 7 It has been observed that public officials’ responses and news media responses counter each other during the onset of an outbreak. It is essential to understand the role of public administrators during a crisis and issue a comforting statement.
During a pandemic, public officials have to understand and engage citizens in positive thinking and decision-making by sharing only pertinent information on their social media handles. Crisis as an objective refers to a crisis that can be evident through a produced checklist of criteria. There is a substantial agreement that an event must meet the conditions before it can be called a crisis.
Crisis perception may have an element of individual human perception. The way one perceives a crisis does not necessarily apply to the other person. The process of giving meaning to receive stimuli is referred to as perception. It is also the result of “awareness of objects, relationships, and events through the senses.” The perception of a crisis can be subjective. 3 For example, if we set a particular goal, then there are chances that due to some unavoidable circumstances, there would be a possibility the specific goal would not be attained which can be called the subjective as well as the objective difficulty that is experienced during the setting of a goal but not being able to attain it can lead to anxiety.
Crisis as a social construct includes crises that can be seen by some as an idea that has been accepted and created by the social class. This is because individuals, institutions, and society always encounter experiences that are beyond the normal or routine ways of operating. Those who have been affected will face extraordinary and legitimate threats as well as possibly lack the information and time for decision-making. Crisis as terminology is attributed to a particular set of unavoidable social circumstances. A social construct is something that exists as a result of human creation. It exists because humans agree that it is real.
Crisis at the institutional level refers to both the public and private institutions that can be affected by a crisis. Some situations can lead to a crisis of law that could significantly affect an institution’s trustworthiness and status. The private sector includes a corporate crisis which can be seen as an event or situation that threatens the company’s ability to effectively operate. This crisis can escalate into a long-term impediment to business growth. Therefore, they have a sense of responsibility to their stakeholders to respond effectively to the crisis and also promptly to avoid embarrassment, especially in front of the general public. It is essential on the part of leaders to take quick steps in the face of a crisis.
A public sector crisis occurs when its institutional status, basic structures, principles, and values are threatened. For public administrators, the crisis may concern the whole or a large proportion of the citizens. Given the social contract between a government and its citizens, the public sector should take ownership of managing the crisis to protect its population and infrastructure as well as restore public order in society. The unrevealed objective of crisis management in the public sector is the welfare and the elevation of people residing in society.
Societies and communities are also part of the diverse nature of a crisis at the societal level. Over the past few years, we have faced various types of crises like climate change, racial crises, diseases, pandemics, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, financial crises, etc. The list is extensive and these types of crises present challenges to societies in various forms.
Crisis based on timescales includes the following types of crises which are as follows:
- Crises that suddenly begin and abruptly end refer to bomb explosions, hijackings, locust invasions, etc. Crises may start and end within hours, days, or weeks or they may last longer.
- Emergencies build up gradually until they hit a tipping point, at which moment they are fairly and expeditiously resolved. For example, a nuclear reactor that is not properly maintained can inflict significant damage to both the environment and humanity.
- Crises that are long-term threats refer to crises that develop slowly and a resolution is rarely reached. In other words, the crisis typically remains unresolved. For instance, global warming, deforestation, etc.
- Crises with lingering impacts refer to crises that occur quickly and often reach a short-term solution. In any case, it has wider consequences or may even lead to a period of crisis for individuals, institutions, and societies. For instance, oil spills, financial crises, etc.
- A traditional or recurring crisis is known to occur in a particular region. A crisis has either occurred in that region before or the region is known to be vulnerable to the specific crisis. This could be hurricanes, earthquakes, bushfires, etc.
- A novel or new crisis means it is unprecedented. It comes under the category of a crisis that is new to a geographical location or with no previous event that can be used as a comparison. For example, COVID–19 is a classic case of a novel crisis. Its consequences and impacts are unprecedented.
There are different stages of a crisis. The crisis management procedure is designed to address challenges faced in the following stages of a crisis. The pre-crisis stage is the initial stage of a crisis wherein the early threats have been noticed but the threats have not developed into a crisis. Effective crisis preparedness and early warning systems are required to reduce the potential impact. An acute crisis occurs when the critical situation was not contained during the pre-crisis stage and it became a crisis as a result. This stage is when the crisis is managed through a crisis response and stabilization system.
Crisis management tries to assess crisis interventions at the post-crisis stage. The crisis management cycle is a useful way of understanding the demand of crisis managers to think of crisis management in terms of different phases of a cycle. The phases are as follows:
Phase 1: Preparedness
When it comes to crisis management, preparedness refers to the idea of taking action in advance to minimize potential negative impacts. In terms of preparedness, the following features should be considered:
Emergency planning aims to make sure that the various organizations involved in emergency response possess sufficient capacities (for instance, emergency centres, human resources, equipment, and supplies) throughout the country to respond to emergencies. Since the emergency response capacities have been developed, operational plans should be established and these plans should contain standard operating procedures that should be supported by national directives.
Thus, emergency plans can take many different forms which are not limited to plans for a crisis management team, business continuity plans, or crisis communications protocols. In developing an emergency response for a novel crisis, the emphasis must be on the development of the crisis manager’s capability to be able to improvise and innovate during a crisis. Integrated response networks should also be implemented.
Training and exercises in the preparedness phase include training response units and testing equipment. Developing the ability of staff to use it and testing the various emergency plans as well as the staff’s knowledge of the detailed protocols and procedures.
Phase 2: Response
Once a crisis has not been ruled out and upon notification that an emergency has commenced, then the crisis management team led by the staff should take charge of the situation. This enables the team to be proactive in managing the crisis. While the crisis management team makes decisions and takes action and then the public official that heads a government institution must continue to manage the administrative affairs of the institution.
Phase 3: Stabilization
This stage could go on for several weeks or even months, depending on the type of crisis. Crisis managers must ensure the re-establishment of critical services and even in the absence of a complete functioning infrastructure. This can be attained with the help of a contingency response plan and effective planning. For example, emergency services and a responsible team must take charge of effective planning.
The stabilization phase must not be seen as an end in itself but as a means to an end. For example, in the situation of an emergency that displaces a large population, the stabilization of the crisis would occur when sufficient sheltering capacity is sustained to meet the immediate needs of the displaced population by the aid organizations. This makeshift arrangement should continue until the affected population moves into long-term housing solutions. Therefore, crisis managers must ensure all temporary shelters are closed.
Phase 4: Recovery
During the recovery phase, attention is paid to ensuring a long-term, sustainable recovery involving intense coordination, integration efforts, and engagement with the community. Leading the recovery phase involves coordinating with various kinds of stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and it requires a highly professional crisis manager with sufficient leadership skills, authority, and coordination skills. Crisis recovery must aim to restore both the personal lives of individuals and the employment of the community. Depending on the crisis and how it has affected communities, long-term recovery may take several months or years.
The recovery phase must be managed by the government and if required, may include events such as the reconstruction of infrastructure. For example, public roads, hospitals, police stations, etc. Social protection grants may be provided for the welfare of individuals, families, businesses, etc.
Phase 5: Evaluation
When the crisis is receding in the evaluation phase, government officials must indicate closure to the public through a formal and well-communicated process to help alleviate anxiety and encourage the return to a state of normality. Public administrators should make sure that crisis management is the preparation for and carrying out of all emergency functions pertinent to mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from emergencies and disasters caused by all hazards (whether natural, technological, or man-made). Public officials have the main responsibility to prevent and reduce the impact of a crisis. This includes international, regional, sub-regional, transboundary, and bilateral cooperation. Measures should include predicting future crises and implementing preventive and preparatory measures to build catastrophe-resistant and disaster-resilient communities.
Research and data from natural as well as social scientists have shown that crises are becoming more frequent, intense, and complex. People-centred management involves public officials making sure that managing the risk of crises and disasters must aim at protecting people, livelihoods, and productive assets. It should include cultural and environmental benefits while protecting all human rights which include the right to voice and development.
To manage risk effectively, the public official must aim to be accountable for using available resources sustainably and efficiently. This means that policy should be framed in such a way that its main priority must be to save lives and protect the environment. Unity of efforts and command includes public administrators who must ensure unity of efforts among all levels of government and communities engaged in crisis management. Plans at all levels of local government must support the community’s vision and mission and be consistent with its values.
To resolve a crisis, there should be unity of command and assumed instructions from government leaders. It is noteworthy that unity of command removes any kind of confusion, duplication of efforts, or argument among response teams. Public administrators should know that crisis management needs all-of-society engagement and partnership. There shouldn’t be any discrimination and special attention should be given to the public which has been disproportionately affected by the crisis (especially the underprivileged people). Gender, age, disability, and cultural perspectives should be included in all policies and practices.
Professionalism regarding the principles of crisis management concerns not only the personal attributes of the crisis manager but also the commitment to crisis management as a profession. Public officials must accept that addressing underlying disaster risk factors through disaster risk-informed public and private investments is more cost-effective than primary reliance on post-disaster response and recovery.
The need for a global partnership is essential in crisis management. Public administrators need to comprehend those developing countries (particularly least developed countries, small island developing states as well as other countries facing specific disaster risk challenges) need sufficient, sustainable, and timely provision of support. This may involve technology transfer, finance, and capacity building from developed countries and organizations tailored to the needs and priorities of vulnerable countries as recognized by the countries themselves.
The approval of “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” constitutes the amalgamation of efforts to implement a substitute for the Millennium Development Goals. It is a life-changing plan of action for all nations and all stakeholders to execute. It has a primary goal of the abolition of poverty and its central mandate is the integration of the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The document also ensures that there is universal collaboration and citizen welfare so that no one is left behind.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been seen as a positive and aspirational milestone for all stakeholders. The Secretary-General describes the outcome as a “universal, transformative and integrated development agenda.” The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 global targets are for regions to pursue sustainable development as well as for communities to uplift themselves. Disaster risk reduction cuts across many aspects and sectors of development. One can find 25 targets related to disaster risk reduction in 10 of the 17 SDGs, which strongly establishes the role of disaster risk reduction as a core development strategy. Some of the SDGs which directly link to the research work have been discussed below:
Goal 1: To eradicate poverty in all of its forms
To eradicate extreme poverty, it is essential to build disaster resilience and preparedness measures. As one of the most important drivers of disaster risk, given how it creates and increases social and economic vulnerability, poverty has notably contributed to the growth in risk conditions, which further reduces the progress of sustainable development. There is evidence to suggest that the impacts of disasters undermine hard-earned development gains in both developing and developed countries, potentially forcing the most vulnerable into extreme poverty.
By 2030, there is an estimate that 325 million people will be trapped in poverty and susceptible to the extremes of climate change, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Thus, it is pertinent to build and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities to prevent future disaster events from pulling more people into impoverishment. In addition, it is pertinent to protect their livelihoods and assets to help them come out of the crisis.
Goal 2: Improving nutrition, ending hunger, and achieving food security is crucial
Natural disasters contribute to global food insecurity and hunger particularly when they exacerbate existing economic vulnerability. Large shocks and extensive risk are among the factors that destroy agricultural assets causing significant damage to the livelihoods and food security of millions of farmers. Agricultural practices must be redesigned to withstand factors such as climate change and increased disaster risk-related situations.
Goal 3: For all age groups we must ensure a healthy lifestyle and encourage well-being
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s third goal is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” The associated targets aim to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio; end preventable deaths of newborns and children; end epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and reduce mortality from noncommunicable diseases; strengthen substance abuse prevention and treatment. Also, halve the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents; ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services; and achieve universal hygienic sanitation.
A disaster has an impact on people’s health and well-being in the event of an emergency. Diseases, injuries, psychosocial consequences, and impairments associated with extreme weather and climate-related hazardous occurrences pose the greatest threat to public health. To carry out this goal, one needs to measure according to the Sendai Framework which recommends promoting disaster risk understanding at all levels including educational institutions and companies.
Goal 4: We must ensure that everyone has access to a high-quality education that is inclusive and non-discriminatory
Education is critical to reducing vulnerability and increasing community resilience to disaster risk. As a result of a disaster, students and teachers lose their lives and valuable public investments in social goals, infrastructure, and education are also jeopardized along with long-term consequences. Schools must incorporate disaster-resistant structures and adapt to local risks if we are to move forward with this goal. In the event of a disaster, emergency shelters are extremely beneficial, followed by building resilient infrastructure also aids in coordinated response and recovery efforts.
Goal 5: Gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls must be achieved
Although no target emphasizes the role of women and girls in disaster risk reduction, it is critical to achieving the goal of gender egalitarianism and empowerment to build disaster resilience in communities. According to the framework mentioned by Sendai, women’s participation is imperative for effectively managing disaster risk as well as designing, funding, and implementing gender-sensitive policies, plans, and initiatives.
Goal 6: We need to ensure the management of water and sanitation for everyone
Sustainable water management is essential for addressing disaster vulnerability and building the resilience of communities to water-related hazards. 8 Due to the growing population in India, it is critical to understand the distribution of water at the local level and find out a solution for the water crisis, and implementation of proper hygiene standards across all states.
Goal 7: We must ensure access to affordable and modern energy for everyone
To build resilient infrastructure, it is essential to achieve the energy goal. This requires strengthening and promoting the durability of upcoming and existing critical infrastructure to make sure that they remain operational during and after a catastrophe.
Goal 8: To make sure there is equal opportunity for everyone and sustainable economic growth.
Investing in disaster risk reduction and resilience is essential to secure economic growth and advancement in society. To achieve this goal, as outlined in the Sendai framework we must promote ways for disaster risk indemnification. The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes components such as decent work, job creation, social protection, workplace rights, and social dialogue. The Rio +20 Conference result document expresses fear about labour market conditions and significant shortages of available decent employment opportunities in paragraphs 143-157. At the same time, it acknowledges the existing links between poverty eradication, full and productive employment, and decent work for all, and it calls on all governments to address the worldwide crisis of young employment.
Goal 9: We must improve our structure, promote inclusivity and non-stop industrialization and encourage innovation
It aims to develop resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialization, and innovation. Economies with a diverse industrial sector and robust infrastructure suffered less harm and recovered faster. Global manufacturing recovered from the epidemic in 2021, although the recovery is still incomplete and unequal. Higher-technology industries did better and recovered sooner, demonstrating the importance of technical innovation in reaching Goal 9. In terms of the public position, it’s critical to develop updated structural norms and recuperation and reconstruction practices. It’s also necessary to introduce and cultivate a culture of conservation that includes the development of a brand-new structure.
Improve scientific research and industrial sector technological capabilities in all countries, particularly developing countries, including encouraging innovation and significantly increasing the number of research and development workers per million people, as well as public and private research and development spending, by 2030.
Goal 10: We need countries to cooperate and bring down inequality in society
Empower and promote social, economic and political inclusion for all by 2030, regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic status. Ensure equal opportunity and reduce outcome inequalities, including eliminating discriminatory laws, policies, and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies, and action. Adopt policies, particularly fiscal, wage, and social protection policies, to achieve greater equality over time.
A disaster can show the divide between men and women. For instance, after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, women’s average income increased by 3.7 percent from 2005 to 2007, and men’s income increased by 19 percent. The impoverished population is almost always the most affected by a disaster. For households and communities to be resilient to disasters, it is essential to promote and create social safety nets that are linked to livelihood enhancement programs.
1 The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) examines the relationship between disaster risk reduction and evolution within the context of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015–2030).
Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development identified and declared the critical need to reduce disaster risk. Despite the link between disasters and development, disaster risk and resilience received insufficient attention in the original Millennium Development Goal agenda. While it is universally acknowledged that disasters can erode and destroy development gains, there is scant recognition of the role that different development approaches play in creating or increasing vulnerability.
There are many ways that disaster risk reduction is identified and advanced in the document including the direct references to the outcomes of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sendai Framework as well as the specific opportunities to attain the SDGs by bringing down disaster risk. For example, reducing the vulnerability of the poor to disasters and building resilient infrastructure can help the underprivileged.
These targets are about promoting education for sustainable development and upgrading educational opportunities and ensuring healthy lives. It is also important to ensure that high-level policymakers are trained to deal with a crisis. They must understand the guidelines of crisis management by following the important documents which include the political and institutional issues that will emerge during a crisis or complex dilemmas. The use of a clear and concise checklist will improve crisis performance and the ability to be open to contrasting views as well as coordinate with various stakeholders is essential. Once a crisis has taken place there is usually no time to build a trusted network. Thus, effective crisis response relies on pre-existing cooperative networks built and maintained during the preceding period of the crisis. Strategic crisis managers must do everything to escalate the growth of such networks and they should not endure the persistence of non-contact and silo mentalities. Silo mentalities generally damage corporate culture because of the lack of information shared in the organization. The need of the hour is that independent experts must carry out an audit during the crisis which would help in crisis management.
Steps Taken by Policy Advisers to Manage a Crisis
A critical examination by an external auditor is an essential quality assurance system. It introduces accountability to a normally obscure area that comes under examination after a crisis has occurred. It is also observed that system-wide crisis preparedness would not happen without the continuous involvement and visible commitment of political-administrative leaders. The words and deeds of political officials must indicate that crisis management is essential as well as a crucial activity that must be valued at all times. There must be proactive two-way communication with relevant policymakers, academicians, and community advisers. Frequent and rigorous crisis management exercises and seminars must be conducted to improve future crisis performance and not pursuing or implementing this is the main cause of crisis response failure.
Lessons on Leadership from the Chilean Mine Rescue
6 In today’s fast-paced environment, it is important for teams to perform and acquire knowledge at the same time. During the Chilean Mine Rescue on August 5, 2010, there were more than 700,000 metric tonnes of rock suddenly seeped in blocking the central passage to the tunnels in the San José copper and goldmine in Chile’s Atacama Desert. 9 While 33 men working deep underground were trapped beneath some of the world’s hardest rock, the few shaken miners at the entrance quickly found their way out. The San José rescue effort was a remarkable undertaking that required leadership under intense time constraints and coordination from hundreds of individuals from many organizations, fields of expertise, and nations. Everyone watched it unfold with fear, wonder, and admiration. It was not long before everyone came to the conclusion that the tale had a lot to teach executives about making difficult decisions as a leader. If businesses want to achieve growth and development then they need to face the risks and challenges as well.
A summary of the San José rescue team teaches us that during any situation or crisis, one can only use the best available tools and develop an efficient strategy. The disaster unfolded in two steps a 17-day search operation to find and contact the miners and a 52-day rescue during which they were supported and then pulled up safely and securely. During a time of crisis, it is the responsibility of the leader to motivate the team to work hard even if the result is unknown. In this situation, André Sougarret, the chief of the mine rescue operation managed to keep up the spirit of the team and he made sure that they failed fast and learned fast because failure was inevitable in this situation. The brave executives and administrators who lead change in the world envision four key tasks which are logical progression, visualizing the future, volunteering as a change agent, and finally supporting the process of change.
The Significance of Strong Leadership
A higher goal means something that is attainable by one person who believes in the idea of leadership and wants to make a difference in the world. In the workplace, good leadership can make all the difference. Employee morale and productivity will inevitably suffer without it. Leadership blunders are all too common, but anyone can learn to lead more effectively. There is always room for improvement, whether you are a natural-born leader or have developed your leadership skills over time. Improving your self-awareness is the first step towards becoming a better leader. This will assist you in identifying and establishing leadership development goals, which is the next step in becoming a better leader. Your goals should be aimed at improving your weaknesses and enhancing your leadership style. Even if in the beginning it wasn’t clear to that person what the actual goal was, one can still create a difference at the social, economic, and environmental levels.
7 The true meaning of leadership involves a choice and not a position. In making this choice, one can take effective decisions for society’s welfare. In such environments, failure is proof that a mission needs to be mastered. However, recurrent failure coupled with excessive stress is hard to confront. As quickly as leaders begin ignoring information that doesn’t support their assumptions the technique of creating modifications gets interrupted. Leaders need to build tolerance for failure and ambiguity to apply the twin technique effectively. In light of experience gained from travel and educational webinars, as well as knowledge learned from other legal systems at the national and international levels, a crisis reaction must therefore be continuously monitored, updated, and modified. Learning from others’ experiences is critical.
Title image courtesy: Vantage Circle Blog
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies.
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