Public Leadership in Times of Crisis: Mission Impossible?



Crisis management (prevention, preparedness, response, and reconstruction) is a tough task for political and bureaucratic leaders. This article documents the persistent tensions between the expectations and realities of crisis leadership. It explores the popular notion that crises provide key opportunities for reform. The very occurrence of a crisis is then thought to expose the status quo as problematic, making it easier to gain momentum for alternative policies and institutions. We argue that the opportunities for reform in the wake of crisis are smaller than often thought. The prime reason is that the requisites of crisis leadership are at odds with the requirements of effective reform.