Leading in a Protracted Crisis: From Uncertainty to Certainty?
Dr Jenny Cartwright1, Dr Victoria Herrington1
1Australian Institute of Police Management, Manly, Australia
Crises are the bread and butter of policing. Commanders have well defined roles, and policing’s admirable “can do” approach to the problems of the world comes to the fore as women and men in blue put their shoulder to the wheel. They are moments in time when members of an organisation go above and beyond the expected and carry out extraordinary feats of endurance when for example, dealing with a cyclone in Queensland; bushfires in Victoria; or a terrorist incident in New South Wales. The typical characteristic about crises is that they pass. As leaders in any public safety organisation, police are trained to lead during periods of crisis. That is their job. But what happens if that period of crisis is protracted? Since early 2020 police in Australia and New Zealand have been front and centre in the state response to Covid-19. Unlike other crises experienced in Australia and elsewhere, there is still much uncertainty with the situation changing on a weekly, if not a daily basis. With the Covid-19 crisis continuing, so too is the expectation of our police leadership. This paper will explore the impacts of leading during a protracted crisis, with a specific focus on the human toll that such a protracted crisis can have. The impact on the workforce in the short and long term will be considered. As will the organisational response necessary to recover and reset anew. Can police organisations be antifragile whereby they convert adverse events and uncertainty into opportunities, and are strengthened by them?
‘Bio to come’