Leadership challenges and opportunities in extreme contexts
Type of content
Research indicates that aside from the disaster itself, the next major source of adverse outcomes during such events, is from errors by either the response leader or organisation. Yet, despite their frequency, challenge, complexity, and the risks involved; situations of extreme context remain one of the least researched areas in the leadership field.
This is perhaps surprising. In the 2010 and 2011 (Christchurch) earthquakes alone, 185 people died and rebuild costs are estimated to have been $40b. Add to this the damage and losses annually around the globe arising from natural disasters, major business catastrophes, and military conflict; there is certainly a lot at stake (lives, way of life, and our well-being).
While over the years, much has been written on leadership, there is a much smaller subset of articles on leadership in extreme contexts, with the majority of these focusing on the event rather than leadership itself. Where leadership has been the focus, the spotlight has shone on the actions and capabilities of one person - the leader. Leadership, however, is not simply one person, it is a chain or network of people, delivering outcomes with the support of others, guided by a governance structure, contextualised by the environment, and operating on a continuum across time (before, during, and after an event).
This particular research is intended to examine the following: • What are the leadership capabilities and systems necessary to deliver more successful outcomes during situations of extreme context; • How does leadership in these circumstances differ from leadership during business as usual conditions; • Lastly, through effective leadership, can we leverage these unfortunate events to thrive, rather than merely survive?