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Crisis management research has largely ignored one of the most pressing challenges political leaders are confronted with in the wake of a large-scale extreme event: how to cope with what is commonly called the blame game. In this article, we provide a heuristic to help understand political leader responses to blame in the aftermath of crises, emphasizing the crucial role of their leadership style on the political management of Inquiries. After integrating theoretical and empirical findings on crisis management and political leadership styles, we illustrate our heuristic by applying it to the Bush administration's response to Hurrican Katrina in 2005. We conclude by offering suggestions for further research on the underdeveloped subject of the blame management challenges faced by political leaders in the wake of acute crisis episodes.
doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9299.2010.01836.x
Crisis management research has largely ignored one of the most pressing challenges political leaders
are confronted with in the wake of a large-scale extreme event: how to cope with what is commonly
called the blame game. In this article, we provide a heuristic to help understand political leader
responses to blame in the aftermath of crises, emphasizing the crucial role of their leadership style
on the political management of Inquiries. After integrating theoretical and empirical findings on
crisis management and political leadership styles, we illustrate our heuristic by applying it to the
Bush administration’s response to Hurrican Katrina in 2005. We conclude by offering suggestions
for further research on the underdeveloped subject of the blame management challenges faced by
political leaders in the wake of acute crisis episodes.
The management of urgent threats to core societal values, critical infrastructures and
the safety of citizens is an elementary function of government. It requires political and
administrative leadership (Boin et al. 2005). Effective crisis leadership entails recognizing
emerging threats, initiating efforts to mitigate them and deal with their consequences,
and, once an acute crisis period has passed, re-establishing a sense of normalcy. These are
no easy tasks in a time of new threats and increasingly vulnerable societies.
Much attention in both research and practice has traditionally focused on the acute
response phase: the critical decisions that must be made during a crisis and the perennial
difficulties in communicating these decisions to a frightened public (see, for example,
Flin 1996; Rosenthal et al. 1989; Ulmer et al. 2007). In recent disasters, however, it was the
‘crisis after the crisis’ that held societies spellbound. In Western societies, the post-crisis
phase is increasingly marked by intense politicization (‘t Hart 1993; Olson 1998; Rosenthal
1998; Boin et al. 2008). While the crisis is still unfolding, the drama of accountability and
blaming begins. Surprisingly, however, little has been written about the wider political
leadership challenges generated by the ‘crisis after the crisis’. These challenges focus on the
management of accountability and the avoidance of blame that tends to be apportioned
in the wake of extraordinary, disturbing and destabilizing events. When crises occur,
something or somebody must be blamed for causing the crisis, failing to prevent it, or
inadequately responding to it (Bovens and ‘t Hart 1996; Hood 2002). Governments and
their leaders are often key targets for these blaming impulses.
Some analysts have explored the causes and drivers of blame games and blame
management (Weaver 1986; Ellis 1994; Hood 2002; Hearit 2006; Hood et al. 2009). Others
have detailed how crisis-induced political blame games generally unfold (McGraw 1990,
1991; Br¨
om and Kuipers 2003). Our particular interest is whether the leadership
styles of political leaders can help explain the dynamics and outcome of these crisis-
induced blame games (Parker and Dekker 2008; Hood et al. 2009).
Arjen Boin is affiliated with the Utrecht School of Governance and the Public Administration Institute, Louisiana State
University. Paul ‘t Hart is in the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Allan McConnell
is a Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and the University of Sydney. Thomas Preston is in the
Department of Political Science, Washington State University.
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©2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden,
MA 02148, USA.
Hurricane Katrina is a prime case for studying political leadership and the post-crisis
blame game. Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast in the late summer of 2005, overwhelming
local, state and national governments. The preparedness and performance of politicians,
administrators and public institutions at all levels was criticized, but President George
W. Bush received most of the blame for the slow and ineffective response. His attempts
to deflect blame (from the ‘unforseeability’ of the levees being breached through to the
failings of state and city officials) only made things worse, creating the impression of an
out-of-touch and insensitive president. The aim of this article, therefore, is to explain why
George W. Bush adopted and continued to adhere to a blame management strategy that
proved ineffective and counterproductive.
We begin by delineating the general challenges that political leaders face in the post-
crisis phase. We then explore in detail the case of President George W. Bush and the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is a particularly interesting case because it features
George W. Bush, a previously successful crisis leader in the immediate wake of the 9/11
attacks, in what is widely considered to be one of the worst failures of crisis leadership
in recent US history (the response to Hurrican Katrina). In addition, this disaster and
its aftermath have been extremely well documented, which is helpful for an analysis of
leadership behaviour. While the choice of one case prohibits us from generalizing our
findings, we nevertheless conclude by suggesting that our framework, which emphasizes
the interplay between crisis-induced leadership challenges and leadership style, has the
potential to help explain the dynamics and outcome of post-crisis blaming processes for
other cases.
One of the chief claims legitimizing incumbent leaders and governments is that they
protect public order, health and safety. The onset of crisis breaches this claim. We define
crises in terms of legitimacy shortfalls as a ‘breakdown of familiar symbolic frameworks
legitimating the pre-existing socio-political order’ (‘t Hart 1993, p. 39). In the wake of a
crisis, the public, the media and political opponents tend to examine the crisis management
performance of incumbents. They want to know what went wrong, what was (not) done
to prevent and contain the crisis, and who should be held responsible.
A crisis thus opens up opportunities for challenging and changing the status quo.
Depending on the duration of their incumbency and their prior political commitments,
incumbent leaders may push for reform, whereas opposition forces may defend the status
quo or, as appears to occur more frequently, the opposite. Whether change happens, and
how it plays out, depends to a significant degree on the interactions between incumbents
and critics as they battle each other during the post-crisis phase (Boin et al. 2008). They
battle to get their definition of the crisis accepted as the official account of events. They
typically argue about the significance of the crisis (how bad was it really?); they also
contest whether the crisis should be seen as an incident or an indicator of structural
failure. The winning contest brings spoils to its sponsor, determining who or what should
be blamed. One important venue for these battles is the Official Inquiry, something
which, today, appears a near-inevitable by-product of crises (Kitts 2006; Prasser 2006;
Drennan and McConnell 2007; Parker and Dekker 2008). The media provide another,
complementary, venue for ‘frame warriors’ who seek to impose their definition of the
crisis through media representatives.
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Two factors are important in determining the outcome of post-crisis blame games (Boin
et al. 2009): (1) the extent to which blame for the mismanagement of a crisis is attributed to
leaders and governments (by Inquiries, the press, legislators); (2) the political astuteness
of the blame management behaviour of leaders during and in response to crisis Inquiries.
In this article, we study the latter and explore how it relates to the former.
The political astuteness of crisis leaders is tested during a number of recurrent blame
management challenges, which consistently and persistently manifest themselves in the
wake of crises and disasters. Leaders have to formulate a strategy with regard to: (1) the
interaction with Inquiry bodies and media representatives; (2) the response to findings
and recommendations produced by Inquiry bodies and media representatives; and (3) the
management of the political impact of ‘public verdicts’ whether produced by Inquiries or
media investigations.
In formulating their strategy, leaders have to negotiate a deeply entrenched tension: they
must consolidate, restore and show faith in the security and validity of pre-existing social,
institutional and political arrangements. However, they also face pressures to criticize and
reform these same arrangements (Boin and ‘t Hart 2003). They must navigate a difficult
pathway between an open, reflective, responsibility-accepting stance that encourages
policy-oriented learning but may leave them politically vulnerable, and a defensive,
responsibility-denying stance that may deflect blame at the price of undermining learning
and eroding a leader’s long-term legitimacy.
These challenges encompass a mixture of agency, policy and presentational strategies of
blame management commonly distinguished in the literature (see Weaver 1986; McGraw
1990, 1991; Hood 2002). Leaders vary in their responses, and responses vary in their blame
management effectiveness (Br¨
om et al. 2008; Hood et al. 2009). Some researchers
suggest that the overall pattern is one of ‘staged retreat’ – moving from denying that
there is a problem to admitting there is a problem but denying responsibility for it, to
admitting both problem and responsibility. The evidence, however, is mixed (Hearit 2006;
Hood et al. 2009; see also McGraw 1990, 1991). Before we explore how existing theories of
leadership style can be adapted to explain the choice of strategy, we will first outline the
political challenges that emerge after a crisis.
Challenge 1: Facing inquiries stonewalling versus co-operation
Scrutiny typically begins before the crisis is over. Leaders will be expected to co-operate
in providing access to information and government witnesses. They may be reluctant to
do so and they may succumb to the temptation to shirk, avert, ‘spin’, or engage in outright
confrontation. Leaders can ‘stonewall’ fact-finding efforts by keeping tabs on files, people
and other sources of information. They can also pretend to co-operate and flood their
inquisitors with truck loads of mostly tangential records. They can try and put a positive
spin on all the information they provide to investigators and reporters. Whether these
tactics will be effective at a time when the full force of journalistic, political and sometimes
judicial inquiry into executive actions is unleashed, is, of course, a different question.
Political leaders usually realize that it is futile to oppose Public Inquiries into large-scale
crises and disasters. But there is plenty they can do to constrain Inquiry mandates. Front-
loading tactics include restricting the terms of reference of the investigation, hand-picking
‘friendly’ or malleable chairpersons, and limiting the time and resources made available
(Elliot and McGuiness 2002; Toft and Reynolds 2005; Prasser 2006; Resodihardjo 2006;
Shenon 2008). Such tactics may rebound. Some Inquiries have been tainted with accusa-
tions about government manipulation: the Warren Commission and the assassination of
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JFK; the FBI/NSTSB investigation into the fall of TWA flight 800 in 1996; the RAF Inquiry
into the 1994 crash in Scotland of a Chinook helicopter carrying secret service personnel
these are but a few examples. Being seen to be compromising the search for ‘the truth’
may do considerable damage to public support for incumbent leaders and governments.
Leaders can also adopt a more co-operative stance. They can endorse the creation
of a genuinely independent and/or bipartisan legislative inquiry. Such an inquiry is
typically chaired by highly reputable, independently minded officials, it has wide terms
of reference and is well resourced. This may work well for all involved. After all, a
politically dangerous crisis is truly defused when incumbent leaders have been cleared or
exonerated by an Official Inquiry that is widely perceived as thorough and independent.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair found himself in this position after the Butler Inquiry
into the accuracy of intelligence rescued him from further political damage over the Iraq
To some extent, incumbents and investigators have overlapping interests: an Inquiry
needs ‘inside’ material and political leaders want to be seen as co-operative. A typical
solution, then, is to negotiate terms of access and co-operation, for example, whether and
how leaders can be interviewed, which documents and officials will be made available, and
whether the conclusions of the Inquiry will be first discussed with the incumbent leaders
(something which provides them with time to prepare their personal ‘spin’ following
publication). The strategy can, however, backfire. A fully independent and thorough
inquiry that exposes and condemns government failures puts leaders’ careers on the line.
It may even topple governments, as happened when the Dutch cabinet resigned in 2002
after the publication of the Official Inquiry into the role of Dutch peacekeepers in the 1995
Srebrenica massacre.
Challenge 2: Dealing with public criticism denying versus acknowledging fault
A major challenge for leaders is how to react to negative yet authoritative appraisals of
their crisis management performance. Leaders may attempt to conserve their legitimacy
either by accepting responsibility or by denying it and blaming force majeure or other actors
for damages, glitches and errors. The latter appears to happen more often than the former
(Hood 2002; Br¨
om and Kuipers 2003). Denial has become much easier for politicians
who have their key agencies operate at arm’s length from their government (Weaver 1986;
Flinders and Smith 1999; Hood 2002), inhabit highly decentralized government systems,
or govern fragmented policy networks systems. The US federal system, for example, is
built on the concept of democratic strength through the separation and sharing of powers
at federal and state levels. One by-product of such fragmentation is the creation of legal
and political ‘space’ for the excuse of ‘many hands’ and widespread finger pointing to
other players in the system of governance (Thompson 1980; Bovens 1998).
Offering others up for blame holds out the hope of deflecting it away from oneself.
In his landmark study of American presidential use of subordinates as ‘lightning rods’,
Ellis (1994, p. 8) notes that the term suggests ‘not merely the attraction of criticism but the
deflection of criticism away from someone or something’. For the strategy to be successful,
it requires presidents to ‘keep their intentions ambiguous’, allowing opponents to believe
that if the president had paid closer attention, or been more involved, that he would have
behaved differently (and better) than the subordinate (Ellis 1994, p. 22). Of course, this
tactic only works when such ‘ambiguity of intentions’ doesn’t come across as being ‘out
of touch.’ Indeed, as Ellis (1994, p. 169) observes, ‘the success of a lightning rod strategy is
contingent on the degree to which people expect a president to be in command of a policy
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area. The greater the expectation of presidential involvement and control, the less likely a
president will be able to deflect blame for administration actions onto subordinates’.
Blaming others for crisis-related failures can be politically expedient, but it may also
lead to accusations of a failure to accept responsibility. The Swedish Prime Minister
oran Persson suffered a substantial political backlash for continuing to blame a range of
actors, from low-level officials to the King of Sweden, after the government’s mismanaged
response to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami (Br¨
om et al. 2008), resulting from the
Sumatra-Andaman earthquake. The alternative to blaming others is accepting responsi-
bility. Grand gestures of this kind (‘the buck stops here’) are honourable, and sometimes
In the same tsunami case, the Norwegian government accepted responsibility for
the slow and ineffective procedures that slowed down its efforts to assist the many
Norwegians caught in the catastrophe. In this case, squarely absorbing the blame actually
enhanced the government’s political legitimacy. However, not all political cultures may
be as reflexive and forgiving as the Norwegian, and many politicians will be reluctant
to take the risk. Ducking, diffusing and deflecting responsibility are much more likely
initial responses to crisis-induced accountability pressures than taking responsibility and
absorbing the blame that comes with it (Bovens et al. 1999; Hood et al. 2009).
Challenge 3: Coping with political verdicts perseverance versus resignation
When Official Inquiries are highly critical of a government’s conduct, the apotheosis of
the blame game may come to rest with leaders’ decisions about their personal futures.
They can try to hold out. They can deploy several tactics to defuse criticism and maintain
their legitimacy: arguing that continuity is vital in a time of crisis; setting up an(other)
Inquiry to ‘buy time’; sacking or sanctioning lower-level officials; announcing sweeping
reforms to show they have got the message.
The odds of survival are not bad. Constitutional conventions of ministerial account-
ability have been eroded in many countries. Criticism has to mount a higher hurdle if it
is to have real consequences. Many leaders have survived devastating Inquiry reports,
including Ronald Reagan in the Iran-Contra Affair, and Tony Blair over the decision to
go to war in Iraq. Some leaders may feel a moral or political obligation to resign as a
consequence of their role in a crisis (following the largely mythical ‘Carrington doctrine’)
(see Woodhouse 1993). However, most crisis-induced resignations appear to stem from
quite different motives, including: fundamental disagreement with the prevailing crisis
response (US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance resigned in protest against the military
rescue operation chosen by President Jimmy Carter to try and liberate American citizens
held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran; see Farber 2004); ’lightning-rod’ absorption of
blame by staffers to protect the top leader (White House Chiefs of Staff or Special Advisers
often perform this function in the United States; see Ellis 1994); or face-saving gestures to
pre-empt a forced removal.
President Bush navigated the post-9/11 shoals in a remarkably effective way, catapulting
his approval ratings and providing his administration with opportunities to implement
radical policy reforms. This is the same president who is widely perceived to have failed
miserably in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the coasts of Louisiana and
Mississippi in the summer of 2005. He clung to a defensive and evasive strategy, which,
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in hindsight, proved destructive to his reputation. In the remainder of this article, we
explore whether, and to what extent, President Bush’s leadership style can help explain
the persistent use of a failing blame-management strategy which would define the rest of
his presidency.
From landfall to policy fiasco
It would be fair to say that the American public experienced the response to Hurricane
Katrina as a fiasco. It is important to stress the constructed nature of fiascos (Bovens
and ‘t Hart 1996). While the response to Hurricane Katrina saw many heroic acts
and clear examples of success (Derthick 2007), it was the image of people deserted
on cut-off bridges and overpasses for days, exposed to the baking sun without water or
medical care, that dominated and still does public perception of the disaster response
(Cooper and Block 2006; Dyson 2006). The pictures of increasingly desperate people in
the Superdome, awaiting rescue as food and water failed to materialize, informed the
image of a response failure on a massive scale. Seemingly ‘out of touch’ expressions of
confidence in the fledgling response further framed the event for the public as one of
government incompetence.
Although there were failures at all levels of government, the federal response (run by
FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House) caught most of the
public blame. From a public relations perspective, this may be qualified as a self-induced
disaster. President Bush lost the battle of ‘meaning makers’ that tends to ensue in the face
of most major disasters (‘t Hart 1993; Boin et al. 2009). Critics of the Bush administration
used the botched response to paint a very negative picture of the Bush administration;
President Bush and his advisors, in turn, failed to engage in this battle until it was too
late. When they finally did, their off-key message only reinforced the emerging image of
federal failure.
Initial stonewalling
Just as it had done in the wake of 9/11 (Parker and Dekker 2008; Shenon 2008), the
Bush administration strongly opposed calls to establish an independent commission to
investigate the federal response. The GOP-controlled Congress defeated repeated calls
for an independent commission. It finally established two separate GOP-dominated
congressional commissions in the House and Senate. The White House refused to fully
co-operate with these Inquiries. It withheld key documents, disallowed testimony by top
administration officials by invoking executive privilege, and prevented access to email
traffic and other correspondence among top White House aides (such as White House
Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend). Henry
Waxman, a Democrat Representative from California, voiced the growing frustration
of many Democrats on Capitol Hill with White House co-operation when he observed,
‘Our fears are turning out to be accurate... the Bush administration is stonewalling the
Congress’ (Lipton 2006a). Similarly, Democratic Representative Gene Taylor of Mississippi
complained, ‘What do they have to hide? Why don’t they just come forward and say,
‘‘This is what we knew, when we knew, and this is how we reacted?’’’ (Lipton 2006b).
What the White House could not control, however, were inquiries by journalists, who
began to dig for the underlying causes of the disaster. They focused on many issues,
ranging from the role of the US Army Corps of Engineers in the construction of the failing
levees, to the apparent cronyism surrounding many political appointments in FEMA and
DHS. Reporters uncovered warnings that President Bush had received before the disaster
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and described in detail the tensions between the Governor of Louisiana, Ms Blanco, the
Mayor of New Orleans, Mr Nagin, and President Bush.
President Bush initially held to a cautious line of defence, staying away from the
disaster scene, offering material support and reassuring words (‘They’re doing a heck of a
job’). Continued publicity, however, about FEMA director Michael Brown’s qualifications
undercut White House efforts to deflect blame. The White House never offered a credible
storyline that could provide a counterweight to the emerging image of a non-caring
administration characterized by patronage and self interest.
While political pundits used juicy details the Arabian horse breeder who had done ‘a
heck of a job’ in their continuing attacks on the Bush administration, the White House
did not revise its initial stance that nothing more could have been done. The strategy of
stonewalling began to backfire. Negative publicity began to mount. The administration’s
refusal to co-operate was taken as a signal that it had something to hide. Indeed, when
Time magazine published its own investigation of cronyism in the Bush Administration
(Tumulty et al. 2005), it found numerous examples similar to Brown (where appointees
had no relevant professional experience to qualify for their posts, beyond being Bush
Deflecting responsibility
Before any official findings were ever presented, the White House began an attempt at
political damage control. When Hurricane Rita formed and began moving towards the
Gulf Coast only weeks after Hurricane Katrina, the White House sought to demonstrate
that lessons had been learned from Katrina. The media was briefed in-depth about how
deeply Bush was involved in calling governors and federal officials to ensure relief efforts
would be carefully coordinated (Sanger 2005). The February 2006 White House Katrina
report included ‘lessons learned’ in its title, produced 125 specific recommendations, and
emphasized the President’s view ‘that we must do better in the future’.
There is no evidence Bush explicitly sought to use subordinates as ‘lightning rods’
during the Katrina case. Even when it became increasingly clear that ‘Brownie’ had not
done ‘a heck of a job’ handling the crisis, Bush still defended his subordinate until a tidal
wave of bipartisan criticism eventually forced Brown to be removed from oversight of the
Katrina efforts, reassigned to Washington, and eventually to resign. Subordinates thus
only served as ‘inadvertent’ lightning rods due to their official responsibilities, with first
Brown taking most of the blame, followed by Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff
during later Congressional Inquiries.
During his February 2006 testimony before the Senate, Chertoff acknowledged and
accepted substantial blame for the response, especially regarding his misplaced confidence
in Brown (Lipton 2006a). With his mea culpa, Chertoff avoided having the committee call
for his resignation, and White House press secretary Scott McClellan rewarded him by
stating that ‘Secretary Chertoff is doing a great job’ (Lipton 2006c).
The House committee, which was composed solely of Republican members (after a
boycott by Democrats) published its report, A Failure of Initiative, in February 2006.
That same month, the White House issued its own Katrina report (The Federal Response to
Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned) which accepted only limited White House blame for the
outcome. Later, a non-partisan investigation by the Government Accounting Office (GAO)
placed primary blame for the failed federal response on Homeland Security Secretary
Chertoff rather than lower-level officials (Neuman 2006). Although these Inquiries resulted
in some embarrassing revelations, the White House remained largely insulated from
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politically damaging verdicts, which settled upon lower-ranking officials (in this case,
Brown and Chertoff), and a wide-range of state and local officials.
Damage control
After the Katrina Inquiries, two distinct patterns emerged. First, there was a perhaps
remarkable return to the pre-disaster status quo. While President Bush publicly accepted
responsibility for the slow and inadequate response, very little changed. Apart from
FEMA director Michael Brown, who left early in the disaster, no other personal sacrifices
were required. Chertoff scraped by, in spite of being blasted in Inquiry Reports and in
the media for the delays and confusion accompanying the federal response. The Katrina
Report, written by House Republicans, singled out Chertoff for blame, describing him as
‘detached from events and representative of the passive reaction and misjudgements of
most of Bush’s top aides’ (Hsu 2006). Nevertheless, calls for his resignation from members
of Congress were ignored.
In addition, no major organizational or policy reforms were initiated at the federal level.
While many observers noted the pre-Katrina warnings about the declining effectiveness
of FEMA, as a direct result of its submergence into the Department of Homeland Security
(Tierney 2005; Perrow 2007), the Bush administration did not restore FEMA’s previous
stature as an independent agency. Moreover, the National Response Framework, which
had been severely criticized for its heavy emphasis on terrorism, was only slightly revised
in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (the emphasis on terrorism remained firmly in place).
Second, the Bush administration showered federal money on the stricken Gulf region.
FEMA spent almost $10 billion on public infrastructure projects and hazard mitigation in
Louisiana. The White House saw its efforts to facilitate the restoration of New Orleans
hampered by a long-lasting row over the FEMA trailer parks (used to house survivors
in the region). It turned out that the trailers were contaminated with potentially harmful
levels of formaldehyde, further reinforcing the dominant storyline of a ‘careless’ and
‘uncaring’ government.
The story of Katrina prompts two questions. First, we should ask why the Bush admin-
istration attracted much of the public blame for the seemingly inadequate response to
Katrina. Even a cursory review of reports and analysis reveals numerous failures at the
local and state level, as perhaps may be expected in the wake of a deadly hurricane. Yet it
was President Bush who saw his remaining years in office weighed down by the public
perception of failure. Mayor Nagin of New Orleans was re-elected. The first question
leads to a second, more pertinent one, which asks why President Bush clung to a blame
management strategy that clearly did not work. We believe his leadership style may offer
an answer.
Psychological leadership research shows that political leaders display distinct and
comparatively stable leadership styles, which are a function of their more deep-seated
personality structures and professional socialization. Political leadership styles have been
demonstrated to play an important role in shaping their government’s decision-making
processes, particularly during crisis episodes when the circle of decision makers tightens
and leaders are expected to take the initiative (Hermann and Preston 1994; Kaarbo and
Hermann 1998; Preston and ‘t Hart 1999; Preston 2001; Preston and Hermann 2004; Dyson
and Preston 2006).
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Two dimensions of leadership style have been shown especially relevant in under-
standing leadership during crises: a leader’s need for control and a leader’s sensitivity to
context (Hermann and Preston 1994; Preston and Hermann 2004). The need for personal
control or involvement in the policy-making process varies across leaders, leading some
to be more ‘hands on’ and involved, while others depend more upon subordinates and
their bureaucracies. Some leaders will be more sensitive to context and seek out more
information than others, which means leaders will vary greatly in terms of how quickly
they ‘perceive’ essential elements of evolving crisis situations, how aware they are of
events, and how quickly they will make decisions based on the information at hand. We
briefly elaborate on both dimensions of leadership style below.
Need for control/involvement
In routine policy-making circumstances, the degree of control or personal involvement
insisted upon by leaders appears to be related to their individual needs for power
(Winter 1973; McClelland 1975; House 1990). Those with high power needs are typically
‘hands on’. They insist on direct involvement and control over decision-making processes,
actively put forward their own policy views, seek to set the agenda for their followers,
centralize decision making within their inner circle of advisers, and are unlikely to
delegate decision making to subordinates, hence limiting the scope for bureaucratic
politics among their advisers (Preston and ‘t Hart 1999; Preston 2001). Leaders of this
type are likely to place themselves at the heart of all key processes and decisions during a
crisis. Typically, leaders with less control needs wield a hands-off approach. They focus
on critical decisions, which, by definition, are important but relatively rare (Selznick 1957).
They leave the implementation of these critical decisions to hand-picked subordinates,
people whom they trust and rely on. This style is known as the business executive style
of governance.
Leaders may benefit from a public perception of hands-on leadership style, that is, if
the public perceives the crisis response to be effective and successful. Visibility, however,
also makes it much harder to avoid blame if the response comes to be perceived as a
failure. In contrast, less controlling leaders run the risk of either not receiving full credit
for good crisis management or getting a large measure of the blame for failure (because of
their perceived lack of involvement or engagement on such a critical matter). Moreover,
bureau-political conflict is far more likely with this kind of style (Preston and ‘t Hart 1999),
which can lead to public in-fighting between variousofcialsandagenciesduringthe
aftermath. This makes it more difficult to deflect blame, since the disjointed and internally
divided response is likely to be seen as a consequence of the leader’s ‘less engaged’
management style.
Sensitivity to context
Another important dimension of leadership style is the leader’s sensitivity to context and
need for information before being able to make decisions. Scholars of leadership have
observed substantial differences across American presidents and other world leaders in
terms of their ‘cognitive need’ for information prior to making decisions. This need affects
how prepared they are to seek out information from advisors, as well as whether they
value diverse opinions or only those broadly in line with their own (George 1980; Kaarbo
and Hermann 1998; Burke and Greenstein 1989; Preston 2001; Hermann et al. 2001).
US presidents scoring high in cognitive complexity (for example, with a high need
for information) prefer more open advisory systems in comparison to those who score
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low (Preston 2001). Furthermore, high complexity leaders will typically be more sensitive
to external policy contexts and the multiple policy perspectives that may exist on a
particular issue. In the course of policy deliberations, they actively seek out information
and encourage the presentation by advisors of alternative views and policy options
(George 1980). They exhibit a preparedness to think about future policy contingencies,
and to consider the views and reactions of other policy actors. They are not prone to deploy
or accept simplistic analogies, ‘black-and-white’ problems or stereotyped representations
of critics and opponents.
However, high complexity leaders with their emphasis upon information search and
detailed policy debate, are far less decisive and require comparatively more time before
being able to take crucial decisions. Such leadership traits may not always be ideal under
crisis circumstances when time is at a premium. Presidents coded as low in complexity do
not engage in wide-ranging information searches; they rely on inner circles and trust their
policy instincts. All things being equal, they have less trouble in making snap decisions
under crisis conditions.
Differences in leader sensitivity to context can have important consequences for crisis
management and blame attribution. For example, under normal decision-making cir-
cumstances, high complexity leaders who require time for information gathering and
deliberation are likely to produce more considered, high quality decisions. During and
after a crisis, however, they are politically vulnerable to blame from a public and media
who expect swift, decisive interventions. In addition, particularly in the case of dis-
asters and catastrophes, high societal costs such as death, injury, disease and critical
infrastructure breakdowns provide political opponents with the ammunition to attack
‘ineffective’ leadership.
In contrast, we would expect low complexity leaders to react (in some form or another)
much quicker to a crisis than their high complexity counterparts and to more rapidly
develop a ‘frame’ of the scale and significance of the crisis (as well as the type of response
that is needed), in a manner consistent with their pre-existing personal/political beliefs.
This can be construed as the pinnacle of crisis leadership the true decider but it may
also be perceived, with or without the benefit of hindsight, as ‘shooting from the hip’ or
even as reckless carelessness. These leaders walk a fine line between heroism and scorn.
Table 1 outlines how the characteristics of leaders leave them more or less vulnerable
to pressures of accountability and blaming. We surmise that leaders’ operating styles
and advisory arrangements leave them vulnerable to certain kinds of malfunctions or
problems that may later come ‘home to roost’ during the blame games after a crisis. It
is important to note that there are no prima facie empirical reasons to presuppose that
particular blame management strategies themselves are limited to any given leadership
style type. After all, when confronted with crisis or scandal, presidents with very different
leadership styles such as Nixon (on Watergate), Clinton (on Lewinsky) and Bush (on Iraq
and Katrina) all set out initially to stonewall and obstruct, refusing to co-operate with
We may infer from table 1, however, that different types of leaders have different
degrees of susceptibility to particular kinds of blame attribution in the wake of crises.
This is because their preferred leadership styles have different strengths and weaknesses
associated with them and these are often widely known and debated prior to the
occurrence of a crises and are an obvious focal point for media and expert commentary.
Different types of leaders are also likely to face different kinds of blame management
challenges in the wake of a crisis. For example, leaders emphasizing loyalty over expertise
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TABLE 1 Leadership style, crisis behaviour and blame implications
Need for control and personal involvement
High Low
sensitivity to
High Seen as more ‘hands-on’ and engaged in handling crisis (little delegation
to staff)
Seen as more ‘competent’ due to limited visible bureaupolitical conflict
Seen as more ‘responsive’ to the situation due to willingness to consider
alternative viewpoints, broad search for feedback, and emphasis on
expertise over loyalty in staff
Seen as ‘slow or tentative’ in response to situation due to high need and
broad search for information when making decisions
Mixed vulnerability when crisis has a rapid onset (‘fast-burning’ or
‘long-shadow’ crises). Less vulnerable due to high personal
engagement. More vulnerable due to slow decision process and high
need for information
Low vulnerability to slow-building crises (like ‘cathartic’ or
‘slow-burning’), especially if situation complex and characterized by
substantial ambiguity
Seen as more ‘detached and uninvolved’ in handling crisis (substantial
delegation to staff)
Seen as less ‘competent’ due to visible bureaupolitical conflict and slow
decision process
Seen as more ‘responsive’ to the situation due to willingness to consider
alternative viewpoints, broad search for feedback, and emphasis on
expertise over loyalty in staff
Seen as ‘slow or tentative’ in response to situation due to high need and
broad search for information when making decisions
High vulnerability to rapid-onset crises (‘fast-burning’ or ‘long-shadow’
crises) due to limited personal engagement, delegation, and slow decision
process resulting from high information needs
Low vulnerability to slow-building crises (like ‘cathartic’ or ‘slow-burning’),
especially if situation complex and characterized by substantial ambiguity
Low Seen as more ‘hands-on’ and engaged in handling crisis (moderate
delegation to staff)
Seen as moderately ‘competent’ due to rapid, decisive decision style, but
visible bureaupolitical conflict
Seen as more ‘unresponsive’ to the situation due to unwillingness to
consider alternative viewpoints, limited search for feedback, and
emphasis on
loyalty over expertise in staff
Seen as ‘more decisive’ in response to situation due to low need for
information when making decisions
Mixed vulnerability when crisis has a rapid onset (‘fast-burning’ or
‘long-shadow’ crises). Less vulnerable due to high personal
engagement. More vulnerable due to general inattentiveness to policy
environment increases likelihood they will be caught unawares or
High vulnerability to slow-building crises (like ‘cathartic’ or
‘slow-burning’), especially if complex and characterized by substantial
ambiguity due to insensitivity to context
Seen as ‘detached and uninvolved’ in handling crisis (substantial delegation
to staff)
Seen as ‘incompetent’ due to highly visible bureaucratic infighting and
conflict over policy, plus limited personal engagement which slows down
decision making.
Seen as more ‘unresponsive’ to the situation due to unwillingness to consider
alternative viewpoints, limited search for feedback, and emphasis on
loyalty over expertise in staff
Seen as ‘generally decisive’ in response to situation due to low need for
information when making decisions, but limited personal engagement
results in ‘reactive’ style
High vulnerability to crisis with rapid onset (‘fast-burning’ or ‘long-shadow’
crises) due to low need for personal engagement. If situation has low
ambiguity, may respond well. However, if ambiguous, low sensitivity to
context often leads to inappropriate policy responses
Highly vulnerability to slowly developing crises (like ‘cathartic’ or
‘slow-burning) due to general inattentiveness to policy environment
increases likelihood they will be caught unawares or unprepared
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are more likely to face criticism with regard to their use of purely political operators and
allies in posts that require considerable administrative skills. That is the type of blame
game ‘problem’ that a leader emphasizing expertise over loyalty likely would not face.
Likewise, leaders widely seen as having a controlling style may find it impossible
to successfully deny personal knowledge and responsibility for controversial acts, as
President Reagan did in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal. Paradoxically, Reagan’s
often ridiculed reputation for having an extremely ‘hands-off’ style quite possibly saved
him from the scathing findings of the Tower Commission, since it made his key defence
line I did not know what exactly was being done in my name sound rather plausible.
And so Oliver North and John Poindexter took the fall, and Reagan’s popularity quickly
rebounded after the crisis subsided (Schudson 1990).
In sum, this framework suggests that leadership styles leave them more, or less,
vulnerable to blame attribution during post-crisis scrutiny. But we do not know how
particular patterns of blame attribution and blame management are associated with
leaders with specific placements in the 2x2 leadership style space. This requires detailed
empirical analysis of leadership styles and blame attribution. In the section that follows,
we conduct a preliminary plausibility probe of this framework.
The sources of data for this case must, of necessity, rely upon journalistic accounts and
congressional testimonies of participants. Obviously, there is the potential for bias in such
data and it is undoubtedly not a complete record of the decision processes within the
Bush administration surrounding Katrina. However, these still represent (in the absence
of official records which become available after 30 years and publication of participant
memoirs) the best available data on the case at present and every effort has been made to
find multiple corroboration of accounts described in this case study.
The leadership style of President George W. Bush
President George W. Bush employed a very distinct leadership style. In a population of
over 250 world leaders scored on Margaret Hermann’s (1980a, b, 1983, 1984, 2003) Leader
Trait Assessment scale, President Bush ranked relatively low on ‘need for power’ and
‘general sensitivity to context’ (Preston and Hermann 2004). President Bush believes ‘one
must act from convictions’ and has publicly stated that ‘I am not going to negotiate with
myself’ (Hargrove 2007, p. 229). As a Harvard Business School graduate, he combined a
business executive style with a strong executive team. After listening to the arguments, the
President decided. Public opinion simply did not enter into the equation (Hargrove 2007),
as Bush himself emphatically re-iterated in early auto-retrospectives on his presidency
during his final months in office.
President Bush’s leadership style thus approximates an ideal type in table 1. His actions
during and after Katrina are fully in line with this ideal type, which would suggest
hands-off crisis management, a pro forma acceptance of responsibility, strong loyalty to
subordinates, and a post-event conviction that the way it was handled did not require
second guessing. This is neither an inherently bad (or good) way of managing a crisis. But
this style does not work well for leaders who find themselves in a vulnerable position. It
makes them look detached from reality, secretive and rigid. The lack of symbolic gestures
of contrition (derided by Bush as ‘pandering to public opinion’) leaves a president with
this leadership style wide open for attack.
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration suffered from a general perception of
declining presidential performance. By the time Katrina hit and as opposed to the time
of the 9/11 crisis – Bush had faced multiple ‘accountability episodes’ that had begun
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to sap his credibility with the public. These included the increasingly unpopular war in
Iraq; the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; allegations of misuse of
intelligence to justify the war; and investigations of senior White House aides Scooter
Libby and Karl Rove. This series of political controversies was accompanied by a steady
decline in approval ratings (Bowman 2008). As a result, the Administration’s response to
Katrina would not be judged in isolation, but within the context of an overall negative
political climate. This greatly complicated the Administration’s efforts to formulate and
‘sell’ a winning frame.
The advisory arrangements and style of decision making within the Bush Admin-
istration exacerbated its vulnerable position. Substantial aspects of policy-making and
implementation were entrusted to loyal subordinates. Direct presidential oversight was
the exception rather than the rule (Kahn 2000; Milbank 2000; Berke 2001; McClellan
2008). One consequence was high levels of inter- and intra-agency and departmental
conflict (Duffy 2002; Sanger 2002). Particularly noteworthy were the struggles between
the Pentagon, CIA, National Security Council and State Department over Iraq policy
(Sipress 2002; Zakaria 2002; Moens 2004; Suskind 2004; Mitchell 2005, pp. 174–98; Ricks
2006; Gordon and Trainor 2006; Suskind 2007).
President Bush’s inner circle of advisers and his political appointees were predominantly
comprised of ‘like-minded’ individuals whose personal loyalty was often considered more
important than professional qualifications or expertise (Preston 2001; Mann 2004; Moens
2004; Tumulty et al. 2005; McClellan 2008). For leaders such as Bush, the emphasis on
loyalty over expertise works both ways. In the face of intense media and public scrutiny,
they are less inclined to breach their own principles and sacrifice loyal advisors for the
sake of political expediency.
The closed nature of Bush’s advisory system created hurdles for dissonant views. The
consequence was a reduction in the ability to actively or accurately monitor the policy
and political environments for feedback or relevant information (Allen 2005). Negative
feedback or warnings coming from sources outside the Administration were less likely
to be heard. President Bush’s leadership style facilitated policies that were driven more
by idiosyncratic factors or ideological beliefs than a monitoring of the existing political
context. It also increased vulnerability to blame in the face of adversity.
This pre-existing political context would prove critical. President Bush did not enter
the post-disaster phase with a clean slate politically speaking. Instead of a situation
where blame can be relatively easily deflected, his slate made him a political magnet
attracting blame. The pre-existing political context meant the Bush Administration could
ill afford to appear unprepared, ineffectual, or purposefully misleading over Katrina. Yet,
President Bush’s leadership style did exactly that. It significantly influenced the character
of the Administration’s crisis management response, which, in turn, made it even more
vulnerable to the blame game that followed immediately in Katrina’s aftermath.
President Bush’s leadership style during the first days after Katrina made landfall
reinforced the perception of a leader out of touch with reality. The optimistic reactions
by Bush and White House spokesmen about the federal response and the situation on the
ground in New Orleans were soon refuted by media coverage of the situation and rescue
workers on the scene (Stevenson 2005; Thomas 2005). The President’s refusal to visit New
Orleans he preferred to fly over the stricken area and his willingness to visit Senator
Trent Lott in Mississippi were widely considered as insensitive. Detractors portrayed the
President as being either out-of-touch with events (at best) or downright duplicitous (at
worst) neither of which judgement helped the Administration deflect blame.
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Past decisions now came to haunt Bush’s administration since they were suddenly
reinterpreted in a new and rather unforgiving light. The deployment of Louisiana’s
National Guard to Iraq meant the state was short-handed in its response to the storm and
this helped critics to link the response failure to the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.
The Bush Administration had substantially cut the Army Corps of Engineers budgets
for levee repairs and improvements around New Orleans in the years preceding Katrina
(despite repeated warnings about the threat posed by major storms) by more than half,
which created a direct causal relation between Bush and Katrina (Blumenthal 2005; Ripley
Bush’s style of substantial delegation to subordinates, limited active involvement, and
emphasis upon loyalty over expertise in appointments, served to pre-set the roles of many
of the policy actors prior to Katrina actors (such as FEMA director Brown and Homeland
Security Secretary Chertoff) whose performances would later be criticized. Subsequent
media investigations into the backgrounds of Bush political appointees opened up the
Administration to accusations of cronyism and placing officials (such as Brown) into posts
for which they were not qualified (Tumulty et al. 2005). Such charges were especially
damaging, given the importance (and failure) of federal emergency managers in the
response to a disaster of this magnitude.
The unremitting public pressure led Bush to quickly acknowledge, during a press
conference on 13 September, that ‘to the extent that the federal government didn’t fully
do its job right, I take responsibility’ (Bumiller and Stevenson 2005). While Bush accepted
responsibility, a counterattack from the White House questioned the political motives of
opponents. Press Secretary McClelland used the term ‘blame game’ 15 times over the
course of just two White House press briefings when confronted with criticism of the
Administration’s response (Krugman 2005).
Rather than moving on quickly, President Bush prioritized the reconstruction of New
Orleans and the wider Gulf area on his policy agenda. This may be interpreted as a
cynical effort to correct some of the mistakes his administration had made. It is, however,
also fully consistent with President Bush’s leadership style, which is to pursue ‘what
should be done’ as a matter of principle. While the president refused to reform DHS and
FEMA (the responsible agents for failure according to many), he consistently supported
money flowing down south, long after other priorities had begun to dominate the
national attention cycle. Post-Katrina, FEMA alone has spent almost $7 billion, comprising
$1.47 billion for hazard mitigation and $6.1 billion in individual assistance.
Studying how leaders, governments and oppositions deal with the politics of crisis-
induced Inquiry, accountability and blame is essential for anyone seeking to understand
the political impacts of crises. We have argued that in coping with the politics of post-crisis
management, leaders need to forge pathways through: (1) Public Inquiries (stonewalling
versus cooperating); (2) public criticism (denying versus acknowledging responsibility);
and (3) political verdicts (persevere versus resign). Furthermore, we have refined this
framework by demonstrating that a leader’s pattern of behaviour with regard to these
challenges derives from his or her more general leadership style (and the types of
vulnerabilities this is likely to generate in the operational crisis response phase).
We applied this framework to George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina, finding that
Bush’s leadership style made him and his Administration vulnerable to charges of
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negligence and mismanagement. In the wake of Katrina, President Bush’s leadership style
reinforced the general perception of his performance, which, in the end, left him with
much of the blame. His leadership profile would predict him to assume a hands-off crisis
management approach, to leave operations to ground staff, to back his staff to the hilt,
to assume full responsibility without accepting the political consequences exactly as it
happened throughout the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
It appears that substantial delegation to subordinates, coupled with limited attention
to the surrounding policy environment, informed the President’s personal response to
the crisis. Not only was Bush’s leadership style ill-fitted to the nature of the crisis in
which he found himself, his past decisions (for example, appointment of loyalists rather
than experts to critical emergency management positions) caught up with him during
and in the wake of Katrina. His proclivity to ‘stay the course’ did not help either: it led
to a pattern of political crisis management that exacerbated rather than belied the public
perception’s of leadership failure.
We cannot, of course, generalize from one case. But we can offer some pointers for those
seeking to understand the aftermath of crisis. Future studies of leadership and blame
games should further develop the distinction developed here between susceptibility
to blame attribution and likelihood to employ particular sets of blame management
strategies. An important avenue of research would be to explore various leadership style
typesacrossvarioustypesofcrisestofurther examine the hypothesized relationships
between style, political management strategy, and the political and policy impacts of
crises. Are certain ‘types’ of leaders more likely to adopt specific kinds of management
strategies? How do these interact with different forms of post-crisis investigation in
shaping the political fates of leaders and governments? Can we identify more and less
politically efficacious blame management strategies?
Future research should also examine the relation between the process and outcomes
of blame games. While President Bush lost the public meaning-making contest, he could
claim victory in the political battle. He escaped explicit blame verdicts in the various
Public Inquiries. This outcome fits neatly with the leadership style described in this
article: stay the course and all will work out. Future research in a variety of cases will
have to show whether President Bush is a master strategist or just got lucky.
A much earlier version of this paper entitled ‘Inertia or Change? Crisis-induced Challenges
for Political Leaders’, was presented to the Australasian Political Studies Association
Conference, University of Newcastle, Australia, 25–27 September 2006. We wish to thank
participants for their helpful comments and suggestions.
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... During a crisis, ministers might feel a sense of duty and consider that they must act immediately (Rosenthal et al., 1989) and correspondingly, be highly involved in policy making that is under their jurisdiction and beyond. Previous research has found that leaders differ in their decisiveness and how soon they acknowledge that they are facing a crisis (Boin et al., 2010;Stern, 1999). However, once they acknowledge the crisis, most of them step in and get involved (Boin et al., 2005). ...
... If the public believes that the government has failed, this is likely to affect its existence. The public is more forgiving towards overreaction than underreaction since doing little can be consequential (Boin et al., 2005(Boin et al., , 2010Rosenthal et al., 2001). Therefore, public expectations and attention, and the political consequences of underreaction, might induce cabinet ministers to be highly involved. ...
... Lastly, crisis management and its aftermath might be consequential for the government's survival (Ansell et al., 2014;Boin et al., 2010). One of the challenges of leaders during a crisis is to manage blame (Boin et al., 2010). ...
In coalition governments, parties invest much effort to manage delegation costs to individual ministers. In this article, we examine an intra-executive mechanism for managing delegation costs: Assigning ministerial co-responsibility in cabinet decisions. Using data of cabinet decisions in Israel, we test when and under what conditions co-responsibility is assigned. We find that co-responsibility is assigned strategically by cabinet members weighing the risk of a drift against the costs of imposing co-responsibility. These findings demonstrate an understudied mechanism through which coalition governments narrow ministerial autonomy and informational advantage once policies reach the cabinet. In doing so, this research contributes to a better understanding of policymaking in coalition governments.
... The largest cluster on crisis leadership within the field of public administration focuses on disasters and emphasizes political and presidential leadership. These studies examine political leaders' responses (i.e., blame management; Boin et al., 2010), characteristics such as toxic leadership (Grant-Smith and Colley, 2018), ethical traits (Yeo and Jeon, 2021), decision-making (Galaz et al., 2011) during different types of crises such as disasters , pandemics (Christensen and Laegreid, 2022), or ecological crises (Galaz et al., 2011). Given its strong association with crisis management, the center cluster's positioning of ethical leadership seems logical. ...
... Elaborating the earlier point, the term 'public leadership', within the disaster discourse, has been used to signify individuals holding senior positions within government and public organisations, either political appointees or career bureaucrats in the times of crisis. A concentration of academic enquiries on political (or elected) actors can be observed, with an emphasis on understanding their role in responding to disasters ( Jong et al., 2016), leadership styles, issues of accountability and legitimacy failure (Boin et al., 2010), and blame management (Flores & Smith, 2013). Appointed actors remain relatively less explored in the context of disasters. ...
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Leadership for Disaster Resilience has gained prominence in the context of global environmental change, and the growing need for collaboration, integration and synergy between various actors in addressing this complex ongoing crisis. As the contribution of scientific communities towards these operational challenges remains minimal, the book draws on multidisciplinary perspectives to comprehensively conceptualise disaster resilience leadership within the macro context of a risk society. The ethical dilemmas of leaders, when grounded in values and processes of social and environmental justice, are conceptualised to lead to the emergence of systemic and socio-structural transformative change for disaster resilience. The case studies from across India are structured under four thematic sections, focusing on the leaderships of Individuals, Bureaucratic and Political Actors, Civil Society Actors, and Institutions, for disaster resilience. The possibilities emanating from disaster resilience leadership in addressing the key challenges captured in the book are explored through the lens of such theoretical perspectives as integrative public leadership, critical new institutionalism, and comparative realisation focused approaches to social justice. Thus, the book reaches out to a wide range of audiences, comprising individual researchers, public sector and civil society actors, and institutions, tasked with the responsibility of building disaster resilience.
... Elaborating the earlier point, the term 'public leadership', within the disaster discourse, has been used to signify individuals holding senior positions within government and public organisations, either political appointees or career bureaucrats in the times of crisis. A concentration of academic enquiries on political (or elected) actors can be observed, with an emphasis on understanding their role in responding to disasters ( Jong et al., 2016), leadership styles, issues of accountability and legitimacy failure (Boin et al., 2010), and blame management (Flores & Smith, 2013). Appointed actors remain relatively less explored in the context of disasters. ...
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This book comprehensively conceptualises disaster resilience leadership within the macro context of a risk society. Leadership for disaster resilience has gained prominence in the face of global environmental change, and the need for collaboration, integration, and synergy in addressing this crisis is starker than ever. Drawing on case studies from across India, the volume focuses on leaderships of individuals, bureaucratic and political actors, civil society actors, and institutions. It looks at the ways in which disaster resilience leadership can address key challenges through the application of such theoretical perspectives as integrative public leadership, critical new institutionalism, and comparative realisation focused approaches to social justice. It highlights current leadership practices and envisages sustainable solutions to the environmental crisis by emphasising the need for disaster resilience leadership that could bring about systemic and socio-structural change. Presenting fresh perspectives on leadership research, the book will be an essential read for scholars and researchers of disaster management, social work, management studies, development studies, environmental studies, and public policy. It will also be useful for NGOs and professionals working in the public sector and with civil society bodies.
... Elaborating the earlier point, the term 'public leadership', within the disaster discourse, has been used to signify individuals holding senior positions within government and public organisations, either political appointees or career bureaucrats in the times of crisis. A concentration of academic enquiries on political (or elected) actors can be observed, with an emphasis on understanding their role in responding to disasters ( Jong et al., 2016), leadership styles, issues of accountability and legitimacy failure (Boin et al., 2010), and blame management (Flores & Smith, 2013). Appointed actors remain relatively less explored in the context of disasters. ...
... Poor cultural preconditions contribute to explicit knowledge gaps that hinder skill-based intuitive decision-making (Hanif et al.,144 ISSN : 2620-8091 print | 2620-3812 online 2020). His leadership demonstrated that Bush would take a hands-off approach to crisis management, delegate operations to staff, and assume total responsibility without regard for political consequences (Boin et al., 2010). ...
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During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many state leaders must make decisions quickly. Quick decision-making also has a positive impact on society and the country. Leadership style greatly influences a president in managing a pandemic. As head of state, the President can use his executive power to solve problems, especially pressing ones. This study aims to examine the model of the President's leadership style in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia. In addition, this model will be the basis for forming a particular program that focuses on developing leadership competencies and being an evaluation in urgent situations. This type of research is qualitative. The data used in this study is a literature study that focuses on using secondary data in the form of forty news media articles taken from March 2, 2020, to October 2020. The analysis of news media data was managed using Nvivo 12 Plus software through coding and cross-tabulation analysis. The results of this study are the model of President Joko Widodo's leadership style, applying various leadership styles in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia. This study concludes that the leadership style is inefficient in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, even though President Joko Widodo has directly taken over the handling of the crisis.
This study investigates the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on leadership styles within Australian public sector organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. A qualitative methodology was employed for this research consisting of semi-structured interviews with 50 managers. The study results suggest the pandemic affected managers’ leadership style, managers’ and employees’ emotions, stress and anxiety, and organizational performance and productivity. Changes in leadership style to incorporate being supportive, informative, and motivational to match the change in situation were found to be effective. This addresses a gap in the literature by identifying these three leadership styles as being important for employee support during the pandemic.
An organizational crisis is a low-probability, high-impact event that threatens the survival of organizations and individuals, often with little warning. In response, people seek clarity, reassurance, and hope from organizational leaders. Yet, crises also vary in nature and impact (e.g., a product failure versus the COVID-19 pandemic), which presents diverse challenges to leaders and differing stakeholder perceptions. Based on a critical analysis of 69 empirical articles, we provide a comprehensive, systematic, interdisciplinary review of the crisis leadership literature. Our review utilizes the Coombs and Holladay (1996) crisis typology, where crises are categorized according to mutually exclusive attributional dimensions (i.e., internal–external and intentional–unintentional). We conduct a thematic analysis of crisis leadership within and across these four crisis categories and find that each is associated with a different leadership theme. We also examine the methodological quality and rigor of the qualitative and quantitative articles in our review. Based on our findings, we also offer suggestions to guide future crisis leadership research, and provide guidance for organizational leaders in how to respond to various crises.
Purpose This paper aims to highlight how a group of novice principals in Connecticut and New York used relational, dispositional and situational factors to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The study aims to support new principals and educational leaders. Design/methodology/approach Using Mutch's (2015) dispositional, relational and situational framework to guide the inquiry, this paper uses qualitative methods and interviewing in particular to explore the questions of interest. Six novice principals were each interviewed over the 2020–2021 school year, each interview lasting approximately forty-five minutes. Data were analyzed thematically using both deductive coding techniques and cross comparative analysis. Findings Findings show that novice principals tended to rely on dispositional factors to respond to the crisis. Additionally, novice principals reported limited responses to the situational factors of the crisis due to restricted access and guidance from the district leadership. Research limitations/implications Due to the small sample size and methodological approach, it may be inappropriate to generalize the findings across all novice principals in all settings. Further research in additional settings and larger samples are encouraged to support the proposed findings. Practical implications This paper has several implications for districts and leadership preparation programs. Among these is the need for leadership preparation programs to adjust their curricula to train new principals properly. Originality/value This work fills a gap in the research regarding how new principals respond to a crisis. It also provides insights into practice and possible means to enhance the growing population of new principals entering the educational leadership workforce.
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Risk Perception and Decision-making The Management of Risk Disasters as Systems Failures Methodology Generation of Hindsight General Organisational Learning Specific Organisational Learning Case Studies Discussion and Conclusions
Crisis management has become a defining feature of contemporary governance. In times of crisis, communities and members of organizations expect their leaders to minimize the impact, while critics and bureaucratic competitors make use of social media to blame incumbent rulers and their policies. In this extreme environment, policymakers must somehow establish a sense of normality, and foster collective learning from the crisis experience. In the new edition of this uniquely comprehensive analysis, the authors examine how strategic leaders deal with the challenges they face, the political risks and opportunities they encounter, the pitfalls they must avoid, and the paths towards reform they may pursue. The book is grounded in decades of collaborative, cross-national and multidisciplinary case study research and has been updated to include new insights and examples from the last decade. This is an original and important contribution from experts in public policy and international security. © Arjen Boin, Paul 't Hart, Eric Stern, and Bengt Sundelius 2017. All rights reserved.
On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took sixty-six Americans captive. Thus began the Iran Hostage Crisis, an affair that captivated the American public for 444 days and marked America's first confrontation with the forces of radical Islam. Using hundreds of recently declassified government documents, historian David Farber takes the first in-depth look at the hostage crisis, examining its lessons for America's contemporary War on Terrorism. Unlike other histories of the subject, Farber's vivid and fast-paced narrative looks beyond the day-to-day circumstances of the crisis, using the events leading up to the ordeal as a means for understanding it. The book paints a portrait of the 1970s in the United States as an era of failed expectations in a nation plagued by uncertainty and anxiety. It reveals an American government ill prepared for the fall of the Shah of Iran and unable to reckon with the Ayatollah Khomeini and his militant Islamic followers. Farber's account is filled with fresh insights regarding the central players in the crisis: Khomeini emerges as an astute strategist, single-mindedly dedicated to creating an Islamic state. The Americans' student-captors appear as less-than-organized youths, having prepared for only a symbolic sit-in with just a three-day supply of food. ABC news chief Roone Arledge, newly installed and eager for ratings, is cited as a critical catalyst in elevating the hostages to cause célèbre status. Throughout the book there emerge eerie parallels to the current terrorism crisis. Then as now, Farber demonstrates, politicians failed to grasp the depth of anger that Islamic fundamentalists harbored toward the United States, and Americans dismissed threats from terrorist groups as the crusades of ineffectual madmen. Taken Hostage is a timely and revealing history of America's first engagement with terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, one that provides a chilling reminder that the past is only prologue.