Executive learning post 9/11: A case study at one major global financial institution
This qualitative case study was designed to shed light on the learning of certain executive leaders at one major global financial institution affected by the terrorist events of September 11, 2001 regarding the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they perceived they needed to move their organization and employees forward in response to the crisis. The study was based on these assumptions: (1) Leaders learned primarily from informal methods (as opposed to formal methods) in response to the crisis. (2) Key lessons were learned as a result of the experience of these leaders in responding to the crisis. These lessons guided certain changes in the organization that could be examined, and could offer insight regarding the necessary leadership capabilities for other executives who may face future situations of crisis.
The primary research methods were in-depth interviews with 10 executives, as well as an internal review of 139 primary source documents and participant observation by the researcher. An interpretive summary of the literature on crisis management leadership capabilities and adult learning theory created the conceptual framework for situating the study.
Primary conclusions include: (1) Organizations that want to be successfully prepared to respond to a crisis must have regularly tested crisis protocols and procedures in place that address contingencies affecting multiple facilities/locations/regions. (2) Some defining characteristics of an organization—in particular, its cultural values; its ability to deal with exaggerated change; and its ability to have its management and employees rally around a common sense of purpose to address a crisis—can make the organization and its leaders better prepared to respond to a crisis than organizations lacking these traits. (3) Organizations and their leaders need to understand that not every manager—including senior executives—is capable of leading in a crisis. Some individuals get emotionally overwhelmed in a crisis and therefore cannot lead in these situations—even if they prove to be excellent leaders in “business as usual” situations. (4) Both informal learning and formal learning can have complementary roles in how organizational leaders develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to move their organizations and employees forward in times of crisis.
Management by crisis;
0516: Continuing education
0688: Business education
0620: Developmental psychology