Tuesday, October 2, 2007

EmergentLeadership during the time of Crisis

Our discussion topic today at the MBA class was Transformational leadership and it was based on a paper presented by our lecturer at an international conference.

Theme was based on first hand involvement of the institute and the lecturer during the famous and closer to the heart December 2004 Tsunami.

Accordingly there were four types of leadership identified during the course of the presentation.

1. Transformational leaders

2. Transactional leaders

3. Emergent leaders

4. Appointed leaders

During the Tsunami and it's aftermath all four types of leaders were surfaced.

The story begins with the Tsunami itself which was never heard of in this part of the world prior to 26-12-2004. (The writers own account of the first hand experience with the Tsunami could be read in a future article to written with photographs for the 3rd year anniversary of the Tsunami)

When the wall of water swept away the coastal belt of the island nation people were clearly dumbfound. Srilankans by nature are people who are use to emergencies with the two decade long ethnic war and continuous fighting. But this was disaster of unimaginable magnitude! Research was based upon the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami.

Emergent Leaders

This refers to leaders who are surfaced out of no where who assume leadership role during a time of crisis. Generally they are low key, unknown prior to the crisis. Specific examples include those who saved many lives during the Tsunami at times risking their own lives while many of us running towards safety. Further it included people who were unknown before who assumed duties at camp sites taking leadership roles and getting things organized, directing people etc. Interestingly most of these people have not taken part in most of the common village activities let alone leadership positions!

Somethings in them ignited and they started assuming these roles and on most occasions they were very good in their new found roles!

Interestingly during the time of crisis you find the traditional structures going disarray and appointed leaders such as Government Agents etc becoming dysfunctional. Their systems go hey wire and they cannot perform. According to the research this is because the traditional system works perfectly through systems, procedures which are properly documented. Crisis situations trows all that over the window and the appointed leadership structure find it difficult to work in a chaotic scenario!

That is when the emergent leadership qualities surface of various individuals.

Interestingly the research also found out that these emergent leaders either take a back seat or disappears altogether when things staring to settle down or system comes back where traditional leaders assuming leadership. This was a unique observation!

Another classic example was quoted by the lecturer where he explained a scenario where a beggar who was assuming the role of a traffic warden and directing traffic during 1996 central bank bomb blast in Sri Lanka when all the others were running for their lives!

I suppose sports is a great example in this regard and cricket more specifically There have been countless number of times when a side is not doing well where a lower order batsman(a cricketer who's there to BOWL) comes to the crease and plays an innings of his life to win the match for his team from the jaws of defeat! Then you expect the same or similar performance with the bat from the same guy and continuously fails!

More about Transformational

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