How an effective leader handles a crisis

By David Brownstein | January 21, 2020

In photo above: Mia Beers at the 2015 Service to America Medals gala. (Photo by Aaron Clamage)

In a medical emergency never say “someone call 9-1-1.” Why not? Unless there’s a person in the crowd named Someone, the call will likely be made by no one.

Instead, point to a specific person directing them to make the call. “You in the blue t-shirt, call 9-1-1 immediately and tell them what happened and where we are.” See the difference?

In August we talked about forming strong leadership habits by making small attainable goals. These small wins, made on a daily basis, will prepare you to lead during a crisis. For Mia Beers, leader for the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team for USAID, that crisis was the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014.

Beers was able to handle the crisis because she is an effective leader. We broke down her actions into the four key leadership competencies identified in the Partnership’s Public Service Leadership Model, to demonstrate how she effectively led others during this crisis.

BECOMING SELF-AWARE

Beers was the third team leader to take control in West Africa. To mentally prepare, Beers reflected on her experience in disaster assistance during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

While Self-Reflection is a lesser utilized leadership tool, strong leaders understand they must constantly look inward to improve. History is known to repeat itself – and you can use self-reflection to learn what works and what doesn’t work.

ENGAGING OTHERS

Beers partnered with other agencies and each of the countries throughout West Africa. In what she called “a whole government effort” Beers trusted and relied on the experience of colleagues to take actions they felt were appropriate.

Engaging Others instills trust and sets the foundation for Collaboration among all stakeholders. Beers exemplified this through partnering with other governments.

LEADING CHANGE

Beers created order out of chaos by implementing a clear strategy that everyone could buy into. Vision-Setting is critical in times of crisis because people need clear directions. She set milestones for solving specific issues and clearly defined what success looked like for all stakeholders.

ACHIEVING RESULTS

We all want to achieve positive outcomes but if we don’t know how to work from within confines of company policies and culture, failure is inevitable.

Beers demonstrated Systems Thinking through her ability to navigate not only U.S. policies and regulations, but countries in West Africa too. Knowing when to consult others is a valuable leadership tool.

Read more about Beers’ story as an example for leading in crisis.

To learn more about resources on effective government leadership, check out the Partnership’s Public Service Leadership Model’s website. For more on leadership in the federal government, please read these blog posts:


David Brownstein