Crisis Leadership in Government






Resource Guides




  • When to Listen to a Dire Warning, from HBR IdeaCast
    Former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-Terrorism Richard Clarke talks about the importance of listening when a member of your team warns you about a disaster that may be coming. Based on Clarke's book Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes.




The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes--and Why

By Amanda Ripley

Ever wonder why some people freeze in a crisis, some panic, and others know just what to do? Then this book is for you. Amanda Ripley conducted extensive research and interviews with survivors of major crises to identify the factors that help people survive--and even thrive--during a crisis. Most importantly, this book can help you learn to avoid the denial and decision paralysis that cause so many people to become useless during a crisis. Please read this book--and have your team do the same. Ripley's blog on Disaster Behavior is also excellent.   Read More...

Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen

By Michael A. Roberto

The best way to manage a crisis is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Michael Roberto's book Know What You Don't Know provides a useful framework that can help leaders learn to surface problems before they fester and cause a full-blown crisis. Includes chapters on how senior leaders can circumvent their "gatekeepers" to get an unvarnished view of what is going on in the organization, connect the dots, and teach how to talk about and listen for problems. Also focuses on the importance of intellectual curiosity, systemic thinking, and "healthy paranoia." Highly readable with lots of instructive real-world examples.  Read More...

Crisis Leadership

By Gene Klann

Most large organizations experience a crisis at some point and leaders tend to understand the importance of having a good crisis management plan. In his book Crisis Leadership, Gene Klann focuses on the human element of crises, especially how crises affect the organization's employees and what leaders can do to minimize the negative impacts. Klann argues that three of the key components of effective leadership--communication, clarity of vision and values, and caring--are even more important in a crisis situation. Includes an excellent discussion of how to build a strong team before a crisis hits to ensure that things will go better during the crisis. Read the Introduction and Chapter 1 Read More...

Shackleton's Way

By Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell

Ernest Shackletons' Antarctic adventure is one of the greatest known stories of crisis leadership. Shackleton's Way by draws on many sources, including the writings of Shackleton and his men, weaving a compelling portrait of Shackleton while describing the many difficult situations that he and his men had to overcome in their fight for survival. There are many other great tellings of the tale, such as Alfred Lansing's book Endurance and the HBO min-series Shackleton (starring Kenneth Branagh). But if you are looking for a version that focuses on Shackleton's leadership, you will love this book.  Read More...

Cover of "The Leadership Moment"

The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All

By Michael Useem

Michael Useem has identified nine powerful stories that illustrate different aspects of leadership, including the stories of Eugene Krantz (Apollo 13), Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (the Battle of Gettysburg), and Alfredo Cristiani (peace in El Salvador).  Useem's storytelling is superb, and the lessons from each story are quite actionable.  This is a great read.  Read More...

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

By Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire

Sent to Rwanda in November 1993 as UN Force Commander to enforce the Arusha Peace Accords between the Hutus and the Tutsis, Lt. General Roméo Dallaire of Canada ended up bearing witness to a genocide.  In Shake Hands with the Devil, Dallaire describes how the UN's leadership prohibited him from taking action that he believes could have pre-empted the genocide and then pulled out most of his troops once the genocide was underway.  This is an intense, complex, and beautifully written story of how international (and bureaucratic) indifference failed the Rwandan people.  Ironically, even though Dallaire may have done more than anyone to try and stop the killing, he blamed himself for years for not having done more.  Read More...