Leading in Crisis and Disasters

News headlines, dramatic photographs, and video tell us about the lives lost, destruction, and hardship generated by many types of severe emergencies. With Chinese, US, and other international examples, this course deals with the challenges leaders and society as a whole face in preparing for major crises and responding, providing relief for survivors, and engineering recovery.

Getting truly ready for emergencies is extremely difficult because responders must function in two modes – preparing both for what we will term “routine emergencies” and for the rarer but more difficult true “crises.” In a crisis, taking action is urgent, but the tactics and methods that work in confronting everyday emergencies may be inadequate –or even counterproductive. Response leaders confronting crises, especially large-scale disasters, therefore must operate in a different mode than that appropriate for routine emergencies. They must make decisions with participation of a wider range of stakeholders, developing new solutions by combining elements of several kinds of routine response or by innovating in their strategies and tactics. When the immediate danger is over, moreover, society faces many challenges in providing critical relief services, such as food, shelter, and medical care. Then, amidst the destruction and hardship of a major disaster, the much longer and quite difficult process of recovery must begin.

Faculty: Arnold M. Howitt, Faculty Co-Director of the Program on Crisis Leadership and Senior Adviser of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

< BACK TO: COURSE LISTING

Cookie Policy

This website uses cookies, including third-party cookies, in order to obtain information about your visit to the website and make this website better. Please click on the link "Learn More" if you would like more information about the cookies used on this website and how to change your cookie settings. Otherwise, we will assume you’re OK to continue.

Learn more