Are You a Crisis Manager?

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    Three traits identify outstanding leaders

    It’s accepted that there are many different effective leadership styles, but are there certain traits that tie top performers together? Executive search consultant Justin Menkes thinks so, and he’s got evidence to support his theory.

    A quote, from

    Menkes’ book is based on his work with corporate boards as they evaluate, test, and consider who to hire or promote as their next CEO. Menkes, who is a consultant with executive search firm Spencer Stuart, gathered evaluations of 150 CEO candidates to isolate the behaviors that the top-performing quartile exhibited and the bottom quartile lacked. After five years of research, he found three key consistent characteristics that the best leaders display:

    1. Realistic optimism. The exceptional leaders demonstrated an ability to understand the actual circumstances of a crisis and see a chance to excel. Managers must “have a passion for confronting reality,” Menkes writes in his book, referring to a pragmatic mindset. “You have to show you’re staring into the sun with them; you’re aware of the risks,” he says.
    2. Finding order in chaos. This combines calmness, clarity of thought, and a drive to fix the situation. It requires practice to stay clear-eyed and fearless when the world is tipping. It also requires zeal to solve a puzzle by engaging your staff.
    3. Subservience to the purpose or corporate goals. This commitment to the higher calling or the greater good can make a huge difference. Effective leaders channel staffers’ “intense reactions to recurring setbacks in a way that constructively keeps the organization moving forward,” Menkes writes in his book. By encouraging a team to come together around some important goal, cultivates tenacity and encourages collaboration.

    Because of the fact that an organization’s leaders are, by nature, at the forefront of any crisis management efforts, I very much liked the quote that said managers must “have a passion for confronting reality.” Some of the most damaging corporate incidents in memory (BP is a prime example) have been a direct result of leadership that refused to face up to and admit reality, without which it’s impossible to diffuse or resolve difficult situations.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]