Lone wolf ready to attack. In crisis management, lone wolves still need to lead the pack. What’s essential for effective leadership during testing times is collaboration and communication.

Crisis Management:
Lone wolves still need to lead the pack

20th November 2018

Strong and stable doesn’t always mean operating as a lone wolf. Whilst negotiating Brexit takes resilience and determination, collaboration and transparency remain essential, even during critical stages in decision-making. Something that all leaders should remain mindful of.


I don’t envy Theresa May.

Whatever your view on Brexit, being the British Prime Minister is probably one of the toughest gigs going right now. As I type this, there’s every chance Mrs May will have been toppled before this is published, but for the moment she remains in charge of a rather unruly cabinet and matriarch of a somewhat dysfunctional government.

Tough times calls for resilient leaders

From a leadership perspective, she provides an interesting case study. Throughout the EU withdrawal process, she has stood firm and been undeterred in her ambitions to get some sort of deal for Britain. Whilst we may not fully understand the impact of Brexit, she has held firm on her beliefs, rejecting a second referendum, demonstrating resilience, shouldering criticism and plodding on relentlessly.

Being a leader during times of turbulence is of course a difficult role to undertake. It takes a certain type of individual with the stoicism and tenacity to push forward. An ability to get on with the job and make things happen. Autocratic leadership styles aren’t popular. You aren’t necessarily going to be on top of everyone’s Christmas card list, but the approach tends to come to the fore during a crisis. The grit required to keep calm and carry on is essential. As May said herself last week, “Leadership is about making the right decisions, not the easy ones.”.

The power of collaboration

But there’s something to be said for working together and acting as a lone wolf, even in times of uncertainty. Svendsen (2013) argues that leadership is about “the ability of an individual to influence and motivate others towards reaching a shared goal”. In the case of Brexit, it’s unclear as to whether May has managed to achieve this. For starters, a shared vision seems at odds and her ability to rally the troops and get behind her plan, has already failed.

What’s essential for effective leadership during testing times is collaboration and communication.

Fragmentation within a political party - or indeed in any kind of organisation - usually results in poor decision-making and under-performance. It makes businesses vulnerable, increasing the risk of some form of outside bid or takeover. What’s essential for effective leadership during testing times is collaboration and communication. Followers need to feel as though they are part of the decision-making process, even if the decisions being make are tough.

Transparency in leadership is key

Working with a large FTSE 100 manufacturing business some years ago, one HR Director expressed how important it was for the leadership team to gauge the views of those likely to be directly affected by the closure of a site. Rather than making the decision behind closed doors, they sought the opinion of the workforce, before the final outcome was agreed. Operating a more transparent approach meant that the end result was largely accepted by the employees, who worked alongside management to limit the overall impact at the site.

Of course, trust is perhaps key to effective leadership, even when the road ahead looks a bit rocky. If there is a lack of trust between those who follow and those who lead, then success is unlikely. However, trust must be earned before it is gained. It is the actions – not the words – of senior leaders and managers - that will determine whether trust is part of an organisation.

When it comes to leading during times of adversity, there is no silver bullet to fire. Leading is a difficult process, particularly when external forces propel organisations – or indeed countries – sideways. But by using a wide range of leadership strategies – and not relying on a limited repertoire - managers and executives may find they have their own essential backstop that they can rely upon.

Lone wolf ready to attack. In crisis management, lone wolves still need to lead the pack. What’s essential for effective leadership during testing times is collaboration and communication.
What’s essential for effective leadership during testing times is collaboration and communication.