Crisis leadership has become a strong element of crisis management scholarship, yet much of the published research is primarily observational, based on the performance of leaders in crisis situations or prescriptions for preferred behaviour. By contrast, this paper builds on in-depth interviews with CEOs and top executives who provide a rare and remarkably frank view from the executive suite about the current state of crisis management and in particular about the role of corporate leaders in crisis prevention and preparedness. The heavily regulated chemical industry is seen as something of a bellwether for crisis management, and the paper details the perspective from leaders themselves, namely top executives in the chemical and petrochemical industry in Australia, representing some of the world's largest multinational corporations. The paper explores the reasons perceived at the executive level for why top executives often fail to provide the necessary openness, leadership and prioritization to prevent and prepare for organizational crises. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.