What It Takes to Lead in Life-Threatening Situations

[We’re pleased to welcome author Deirdre Dixon of the University of Tampa, Florida. Dixon recently published an article in the Journal of Leadership and Organization Studies entitled “Making Sense When It Matters Most: An Exploratory Study of Leadership In Extremis,” co-authored by Michael Weeks, Richard Boland, and Sheri Perelli. Below, Dixon explains the inspiration for conducting this research:]

I first became interested in leadership in dangerous environments as an Army officer serving in Iraq. I knew I wanted to help find out how we co3007805773_38716560d9_z.jpguld train our leaders in these difficult environments to become better.  I set out to discover how leaders make sense in these in extremis environments, and how did they give sense to their teams. This journey led me to interview 30 soldiers who had recently returned from conflict in the Middle East. As the US begins our 16th year with conflict in the Middle East, more and more leaders are faced with deploying overseas.  As our society changes and crises seem to be happening on US soil more frequently, more than just soldiers will have to understand leadership in crises environments.  This empirical study helps begin the dialogue.

The full abstract to the article is below:

Leading in in extremis situations, when lives are in peril, remains one of the least addressed areas of leadership research. Little is known about how leaders make sense in these dangerous situations and communicate these contexts to others. Because most of the literature on in extremis is theoretical, we sought empirical evidence of how sensemaking proceeds in practice. A qualitative study was conducted based on interviews with 30 Army leaders who had recently led teams in combat. Our findings suggest that during these life-threatening situations, sensemaking and sensegiving are actually occurring simultaneously, the type of training leaders receive is critical, and a sense of duty can influence a person’s role as a leader. Our findings have implications for both theory and practice since crisis leadership is now a coveted executive quality for leadership competency.

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Image attributed to the U.S. Army (CC)

This entry was posted in Leadership, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, Strategy, Stress, Work environment by Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

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