The Response Leadership Sequence: Empowering and Improving Your Leadership Before, During, and After a Crisis

By Mike McKenna
Lexington, KY: TEAM Solutions (2017) Paperback, 352 pages

Reviewed by JORGE A. ZELAYA

Leadership is needed in all realms. However, not every leader can be expected to act responsibly unless s/he has first learned the basics of leadership. Crises are not about if they will occur, but when. Responsible leaders must be trained and ready to respond to any crisis. The attitude and response of a leader will directly impact the people, place, and items subsequently affected by the crisis. Moreover, how a leader is prepared beforehand and the kind of team he or she leads will be crucial.

Mike McKenna is an authority on leadership. He has participated in leading positions and responding to planned and unplanned crisis events for more than 20 years. With all the experience he has acquired, McKenna is now promoting programs to instruct and develop capable leaders, particularly when times get tough.

McKenna first identifies the basic descriptions of leadership, the mentality true leaders have, and the understanding that leaders must have about their influence on other people. He develops these concepts by sharing some of his personal experiences in crisis events since he and his team have responded firsthand to various tragic events. He has learned from his and othersā€™ positive and negative experiences. This assures me that McKenna and his experiences are a reliable source of inspiration and information regarding leadership.

Next, McKenna moves on to mention the attitudes leaders have regarding how they relate to people. First, leaders must possess competent social skills. This competency will allow leaders to be more effective, regardless of the size or type of group. Second, leaders must have the correct motivation to lead. Their perception of their leadership position will determine the behavior leaders develop; nurturing a higher level of emotional intelligence, as well as feeling ownership regarding the objectives of their organization and the support they receive from others, will help such leaders face and overcome crisis obstacles. Third, only when leaders understand that they extend influence on others will they exercise care regarding their impact upon othersā€”people tend to ā€œmirrorā€ the leaderā€™s emotional behavior.

McKenna moves to talk about how leaders develop their action plans. They set priorities, objectives, strategies, and tactics. Also, leaders plan to care for themselves, stabilize problems from getting worse, and guard their final goal of bringing the community affected by the crisis back to health and harmony.

The book establishes the process of determining command controls necessary to deal with the crisis, organizing the different responsibilities of teams, and defining how to accomplish the mission. McKenna also addresses the need to prepare detailed plans for diverse situations (contingency planning) before the crisis.

Finally, McKenna presents how response leaders benefit by writing reflective reports following their crisis intervention experiences. This process also reflects proactive preparation before a crisis event.

This book holds value for any person holding a leadership position in an organization. McKenna presents a series of organizational aspects that range from building response teams, training personnel, preparing forms, delegating responsibilities and authority, presenting evaluation forms after the events, preparing improved plans for future events, etc. Even though it is written for a secular audience, I believe that if these principles were to be applied contextually in a church setting, they could provide great insights and useful techniques regarding planning for a crisis.

In conclusion, I believe this book has excellent and sound advice for any person in a leading position. I better understand how I might effectively lead a crisis intervention team and would recommend this book to other leaders.

JORGE A. ZELAYA is the pastor of Grand Island Hispanic Church in Grand Island, NE.

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