tution, as well as policies for managing the media. At the same
time, leaders must garner internal support for policy decisions.
Communication must be intentional in content, methods,
and commitment. Leaders must sort through the informational and emotional chaos of a crisis to craft clear institutional messages. Communicating a message, not the turmoil
and upheaval created by the crisis, is a primary strategy in content development. Method strategies involve multiple ways to
disseminate information and process issues with constituency
groups, including informational briefings, small discussions
and dialogue groups, town hall meetings, and use of contact
persons to communicate with particular groups. Some messages must be delivered by a particular leader. In some cases,
leaders must improvise to replace technical communication
systems that fail or are destroyed. Successful communication
hinges on leaders making several commitments: to stay connected to internal constituency groups, to be spokespersons
when needed, and to formalize the communication process
Clarify;the;leadership;infrastructure.;The right decision-making team may require broadening or reconfiguring
groups of campus leaders. Individuals not typically involved
in senior-level management circles may become prominent
in the leadership structure during a crisis. Teamwork among
leaders is an explicit expectation, requiring leaders to abandon
position and status. The establishment of a command center
can not only aid in clarifying the leadership infrastructure,
but is essential to the decision-making process. Leaders must
also know when to defer to and take direction from external
agencies, and how and when to transition control of the crisis
to university officials.
leadership moments, SSAOs must accept responsibility for
their part in crisis leadership and be prepared to deliver exemplary performances in their respective areas.
necessary.;Flexibility and willingness to modify one’s leadership style based on the situation is essential during crisis.
That modification may mean stepping back as a follower
while others take the lead. It may also require a willingness
to engage in leadership that is invisible to others.
Supportive, symbolic, and collaborative styles are predominant in higher education. Supportive, compassionate
leadership means focusing on individuals, cultivating trust,
and demonstrating compassion for the trauma others are facing, including protecting the privacy of affected families and
empathizing with peers that are dealing with the crisis. Leaders
may allow staff to go home or grant permission to staff members to receive counseling or other help they need to deal with
the crisis. Leaders can serve as advocates for their constituents, addressing the needs of special populations affected by
the crisis, helping students manage interactions with media,
protecting students’ rights and decision-making processes, and
maintaining prolonged contact with students.
Leaders must recognize and utilize the power of symbolic
leadership. A key strategy associated with symbolic leadership
is to place campus leaders in strategic locations in which their
presence communicates particular messages or achieves desired
leadership goals. The symbolic power of the presidency should
also be used to communicate with key constituencies and to
emphasize essential messages.
The crisis leadership challenges and strategies featured in this article
are from NASPA’s 2011 Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year,
titled “Leadership Strategies Dealing With Crisis As Identified by
Administrators in Higher Education,” by Merna Jacobsen, director of
the Women’s Resource Center and coordinator of organizational and staff
development in the Division of Student Affairs at Texas A&M University.