The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many company leaders into unchartered territory. Few have ever had to navigate a global crisis of this magnitude, and the choices they make now could weigh heavily on the future of their companies.
But this is no reason to panic. A crisis inherently presents an opportunity for executives to test their leadership skills and to adopt new techniques that inspire and motivate their teams. These opportunities may even lead to groundbreaking innovations, an improvement in existing processes and a reinvigoration of team spirit. With this in mind, we’ve gathered five of our favourite books that speak to leadership in crisis, each of which might serve as inspiration for those navigating the new world of business.
Effective Crisis Communication by Matthew Seeger, Timothy Sellnow and Robert Ulmer.
Effective communication is a critical component of crisis management, and this guide, by three renowned crisis communication scholars, lays out exactly how it’s done. The authors offer step-by-step guidelines for crafting a communication response plan while emphasizing that the right strategy can not only shore up risk, but also lead to future opportunity, renewal, and business growth. Included are several case studies that highlight both positive and negative examples of crisis leadership.
The Hot Zone by Richard Preseton.
Hitting close to home in the wake of Covid-19, this true story outlines the path by which the Ebola virus made its way to a surburban Washington, D.C. laboratory, and how a secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists worked collaboratively to stop what could have been a catastrophic outbreak. While its contents may be unsettling to some during this time, this is nonetheless a compelling tale that proves that decisive leadership is essential in a crisis.
Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
This New York Times bestselling title details the ways in which American presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson adapted to the crises during the time of their leadership and how at moments of great challenge, they were singularly guided by moral purpose. This is a seminal work that provides a road map for authentic leadership in times of apprehension, and a read that is uniquely relevant in these uncertain times.
Seven Lessons for Leading in a Crisis by Bill George.
Drawing from his own ”in-the-trenches experience” as well as the stories of others, the former CEO of Medtronic defines exactly what strong leaders require to do to survive any crisis. With chapters such as ‘ Never Waste a Good Crisis’, he turns dire situations on their heads to illustrate the ways in which they might inspire positive and lasting change. Further, the book’s accompanying website includes several video interviews between George and other executives discussing leadership techniques during COVID-19.
An inspiring and oftentimes emotional read, this celebrated work by Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn relays the history of five masters of crisis, including Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer and environmental crusader Rachel Carson. Each case study offers an aspirational example of leadership in the most high-stakes of circumstances — resulting in a working template for all those who are seeking to see a team through its darkest hour.