Bernstein Crisis Management. Crisis response, prevention, planning, and training.

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2008 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 4,500+
Estimated Readership: 17,000+


In a time of crisis we all have the potential to morph up to a new level and do things we never thought possible.

Stuart Wilde


Great Crisis Leaders:10 Key Characteristics
By Pat Rowe

The global financial crisis has showcased differences in leadership styles. The styles of those charged with dealing with the global financial crisis, from the American President to the finance minister of Iceland, are significantly different. Many questions come to mind: is one style better than another; what are the common characteristics held by all of them; which style seems to play better in which environment; and many more.

The story of the financial crisis is not finally told. When it is told sometime in the future it will be a story of leadership success and leadership failure. Those close to the collapse already provide information that several of the faltering institutions planted the seed of their demise in who they appointed to leadership roles. Other stories identify individuals whose organizations have survived because of their courageous and thoughtful leadership.

This may be the most volatile and deep crisis most leaders have faced. From before the Great War organizations and the world have faced deep crises. When observing the leadership behavior of successful crisis leaders, 10 critical characteristics emerge:

  1. Seeing things for what they are. Strong crisis leaders live on the front end of reality. They recognize events and their significance and do not shy away from the consequences of what they see. Intellectual integrity is a key component of their DNA; they think of what is best for the organization, not their own personal gain.
  2. Strategy and detail. They are able to see the big picture. They can see all of the moving parts and understand what is cause and what is effect. They get below the 30,000ft level and can dig deep into detail without being mired in it. They quickly develop a very detailed knowledge of the issues. This ability further enhances their capacity to view the problem realistically.
  3. Multiple options. When they have identified the problems, they are willing to consider multiple approaches to how these may be addressed. Initially, they engage others in brainstorming potential solutions without judgment, even though they may have a preferred solution in mind. They are confident enough to know and accept that their way may not be the best way.
  4. Decisiveness. Taking ownership of the solution means being decisive. When they feel they have listened to the best advice they are willing to make a decision. Strong leaders will use a combination of real-time data along with their "gut"; the wisdom built on years of leadership experience. When they make that decision they know they need to "sell" it to key stakeholders and work tirelessly to ensure organizational resistance does not block the effectiveness of the decision.
  5. Collaboration. Strong leaders take ownership of the problem. They understand, however, that a long-term solution requires the input and involvement of many stakeholders. They identify those individuals and work together towards a solution that most support and most can live with.
  6. Listen to unpopular advice. Unsuccessful leaders listen only to those who agree with them and often encourage one-dimensional thinking. The successful crisis leader seeks out individuals who have a different perspective on an issue. They include individuals with whom they may not agree and whose advice may be contrary to that of their closest advisers.
  7. Calm, courageous and positive. They feel a sense of urgency and remain even tempered. They recognize that an organization, a country or the world is watching them and know that how they present themselves will provide non verbal signals to the audience. They will deliver bad news when they need to and do it in a way that avoids panic and provides a realistic level of hope for the future. Above all, they are courageous enough to make decisions they believe to be the right ones, regardless of whether they are the more popular ones.
  8. Take risk in the face of risk. Crises often bring the leader face-to-face with a set of situations they have not previously seen. There are questions to which they do not know the answers. Gathering contrarian viewpoints from individuals with whom they might not agree, but respect, likely means they may create solutions not previously tried, and outcomes of which may be unknown. If it is the best solution, however, the strong leader is prepared to take the calculated risk.
  9. 80% rule. Leaders certainly want to make the right set of decisions. Strong leaders understand they will not always have all of the information they might like. They know that making an imperfect decision can often be better than making no decision at all. Even if the decision needs to be "fine tuned" for implementation they are comfortable making it.
  10. Prepare to admit mistakes. Courageous leaders who take calculated risks will undoubtedly make mistakes at some point. Deep crises require continuous decision making. The volume of decisions required in multi-faceted crises can almost guarantee that not every decision will be 100% correct. Strong leaders are prepared to admit their mistakes.

Not every leader will have all ten characteristics in equal proportion; some will be stronger in one area than another. However, most leaders who are successful managing through deep crises will posses a majority of these characteristics.

The ten characteristics can provide you with a vehicle for your own personal crisis management audit. Rather than using it to evaluate someone else in the organization, see things for what they are. Evaluate your own crisis management leadership. If you are in doubt about your own objectivity, get input from others. Most especially, include those with views that differ from your own.

Pat Rowe, Managing Partner of The Rowe Partnership consults to, trains and coaches organizations to more effectively identify, assess and develop current and future organizational leaders. He may be contacted at 919-602-1904 or at

Avoid a Personal or Business Crisis, Inexpensively

I have written before about the common error many organizations make in failing to ensure that their fireproof safes or filing cabinets are also waterproof (and, if they are in multi-story buildings, also crushproof). Otherwise, their important documents and other allegedly protected materials may not burn, but fire hoses and sprinkler systems will destroy them just as assuredly as fire does.

Unfortunately, many of us make the same mistake in our personal lives as well, and critical documents and valuables are destroyed by fire and/or water. I was reminded of this recently when in an Office Depot store, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that a .38 cubic meter fireproof, waterproof, securely locked box was on sale for under $50. Even at full-price, it was under $100. A small investment to protect your business or personal valuables and avoid the incredibly time consuming effort of replacing that which can be replaced — and the heartache of losing the irreplaceable.


Keeping the Wolves at Bay 3.0 Reviewed

"Keeping the Wolves at Bay" is much more than another media training guide - it is perhaps one of the most concise, insightful, useful and savvy guides to strategic thinking about reputation issues available.

Gerald Baron
Founder & CEO of PIER System and host of

"It's like a Swiss Army knife -- lots of cool tools in a compact package. In case of emergency, grab this."

Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
Publisher, About Public Relations

In addition to individual and business usage, the manual is now being required as a textbook at Seton Hall University, Grand Canyon University, and Singapore Management University, amongst others. It is available in both PDF and hard copy formats at, with reseller arrangements available for collegiate bookstores.

Jonathan Bernstein also offers on-site media training worldwide, using this manual as the basis for training. Write to

Internet Counter-Intelligence CD-ROM

In a one-hour teleseminar recorded in December 2007, search engine optimization expert Diana Huff interviewed Jonathan Bernstein, a pathfinder and innovator in the field of Internet-centered crisis management, who described how a wide range of companies have been damaged by the Internet's virtual terrorists, and how some companies have been responding effectively.

In this one-hour session, you'll learn how to conduct your own Internet vulnerability audit; develop strategies for identifying your foes -- activists, disgruntled employees, or unhappy customers -- and tracking Internet chatter; build the case within your organization for ensuring someone is monitoring the blogosphere, news, and Internet forums every day; plan for an Internet crisis and, when one hits, assess the situation to determine an appropriate response; develop the action steps you can take to neutralize attacks, including starting your own blog and developing collateral such as brochures, video, podcasts, and Web links to other reputable and informative sites; and effectively use search engine optimization tactics -- not just because you want customers to find your products -- but so you can beat these guys at their own game!

Available at, as are our other titles.

Disaster Prep 101

Bernstein Crisis Management is pleased to present one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly family preparedness texts available today. "Disaster Prep 101." by Paul Purcell, goes above and beyond the simplistic "72-hour kit" concept and provides simple, yet detailed educational material that will drastically improve the ability of any family to respond to all manner of disasters or emergencies. This preparedness package contains over 400 pages of well-organized, original preparedness material written in an easy-to-understand, non-panic format; 80 pages of family data forms and worksheets (many of which are also useful to the employer); and a 2-CD set containing two interactive and searchable links collections for additional educational sources; all the family data forms and worksheets in softcopy format; and a complete emergency reference library of over 450 additional books and training manuals! US$59.95. Available here.


Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with a number of the services we mention periodically in this newsletter. No, we can't go into details because that's confidential, proprietary, etc. But our relationship is NOT "arm's distance" and you should know that, since we regularly write about these services as we use them for crisis and issues management or other purposes. That said, you should also know that Bernstein Crisis Management sought the relationships because its staff is convinced that these services are the best of their kind for Bernstein Crisis Management's needs and those of its clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.


Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.,, a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to


GUEST AUTHORS are very welcome to submit material for "Crisis Manager." There is no fee paid, but most guest authors have reported receiving business inquiries as a result of appearing in this publication. Case histories, experience-based lessons, commentary on current news events and editorial opinion are all eligible for consideration. Submission is not a guarantee of acceptance.


When I find a site that I think will be useful to my readers or site visitors, I put it on our Links page. If you have a site that would be of specific use to crisis managers and want to discuss a link exchange or other cooperative effort, please write to me,


All information contained herein is obtained by Jonathan Bernstein from sources believed by Jonathan Bernstein to be accurate and reliable.

Because of the possibility of human and mechanical error as well as other factors, neither Jonathan Bernstein nor Bernstein Crisis Management is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Bernstein Crisis Management and Jonathan Bernstein make no representations and disclaim all express, implied, and statutory warranties of any kind to the user and/or any third party including, without limitation, warranties as to accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose.

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Under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages.

A service of this newsletter is to provide news summaries and/or snippets to readers. In such instances articles and/or snippets will be reprinted as they are received from the originating party or as they are displayed on the originating website or in the original article. As we do not write the news, we merely point readers to it, under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever due to the distribution of said news articles or snippets that lead readers to a full article on a news service's website, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Authors of the original news story and their publications shall be exclusively held liable. Any corrections to news stories are not mandatory and shall be printed at the discretion of the list moderator after evaluation on a case-by-case basis.


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Articles in "Crisis Manager" were, unless otherwise noted, written and copyrighted by Jonathan Bernstein. Permission to reprint will often be granted for no charge. Write to