The 4 Ps of Crisis Leadership

white paper on a vintage typewriter

We need to be in recovery and reconstruction mode and only crisis leadership can get us through it. We will most assuredly come out of this crisis differently. It will be up to each of us if we want to make that difference better. It certainly can be better, even as painful as it has been to watch our friends and families suffer and businesses close, in some cases.

I wrote a version of this topic at the time of the pandemic. As I reread it, it was amazing how it still makes sense today. You see, we have had and will have crises in our world and leadership is the only way to solve it.

Some think it is the government’s responsibility. When the government gets involved, no matter the level, there are winners and losers. If we solve the crisis in our communities and businesses, it will have long-lasting results.

It’s not that everyone gets their own way, but through collaboration few can come up with the best way to deal with any crisis.

I firmly believe that the one-size-fits-all recovery mentality doesn’t work. What I mean by that is what is right for Milwaukee isn’t necessarily right for Paducah. What is right for Gainesville isn’t right for Stevens Point. Finding the balance in all of that is the challenging part. I respect the fact that we can’t just flip a switch and we will go back to whatever is normal.

There will never be a new normal.

4 Ps of Crisis Leadership

One-size-fits-all also does not work when we look at our planning during this crisis. Josh Finley, a mentor of mine, shared his four leadership questions in a recent blog. I came upon it through my leadership journey. If you go to his site, you will notice he is a faith-based leader. We are all leaders of one kind or another and it is how we react to the crisis, and not our title, that matters.

His four Ps for planning are:

  1. What do we need to PRESERVE?
    1. What do we need to PRUNE?
    1. Where do we need to PIVOT?
    1. Where do we need to PIONEER?

I strongly believe that asking questions is the best way to get the answers we need and not just to rely on what fits our limited knowledge bank. Good leaders ask great questions. And then they LISTEN! We’ve become a society where sometimes our questions aren’t sincere and often, we can’t wait for the person to answer so we can talk again. Be a sincere active listener.

1. Preserve

If you are going to use the four P’s, then listen to what people, in general, or your co-workers are saying. So, what do you want to preserve in crisis leadership? Hopefully you have your own core values that are keeping you focused on the right priorities in your life. If you own a business or work in one, are your mission, vision and values driving your decisions? “That’s the way it’s always been done”, is not a preservation strategy and will not help your business to survive.

2. Prune

Gardener pruning branches off a tree in the garden in the same way we have to prune in crisis leadership.
Photo by Anna Shvets on

While we do want to preserve, we also may need to prune. Even in calm seas, this is important. We all have 24 hours in a day and how we use that will determine what we need to prune. Our priorities are dictated by our habits and consistency keeps them in front of us while pruning unnecessary things off the vine.

Businesses bring on new ideas to their offerings and, without adding new staff, they will have to make tough decisions on what to prune off the task list. We either prune or add employees. The second option continually gets tougher.

Personally, I just pruned about fifty e-newsletters from various businesses on my personal and professional accounts. If I only spend one minute on each, that is adding about an hour to my day. If I need the information I thought they provided, I can always find more than enough with an online search or with chatGPT. I wouldn’t define that necessarily as crisis leadership, but it sure felt good!

3. Pivot

Basketball is like crisis leadership where you have to be able to pivot.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Having a long career in basketball, I fully understand what it means to pivot. Does your pivot mean elimination, nurturing, or an overhaul? I recently heard a story about a photographer who is now doing “porchtraits”. What a great pivot and what will that mean for his business. Many of you had to pivot at home with your new remote office. I need to pivot less to the refrigerator! Now that’s crisis leadership, especially for a solopreneur.

I also had to pivot with a then eight-year-old in the house as he is “home-schooled”. My daughter (the mother) had to pivot and create daily lesson plans that kept him on target and out of my new work environment. And because of that, kids have lost out on snow days in Wisconsin because now they can flip on their tablet at home.

4. Pioneer

Finally, pioneer to move the “c” in “reactive” to become “c”reative. Getting out of your comfort zone and busting through the fear zone to pioneer an idea is always difficult, but maybe more so in a crisis.

However, if it fails you can always blame it on the crisis—well, maybe that’s not a good idea. But why let something out of your control dictate what is in your control. Several businesses I know have now developed online websites for ordering, even though they weren’t technology people.

People need hugs sometimes to get them through a crisis.
Photo by fauxels on

I know through any crisis, I need people, my own fifth “P”. Working at home is convenient but not what I want with my life. The lack of interaction (nothing wrong with my family, by the way) has been daunting.

Let’s focus on crisis leadership, no matter what the crisis is. Think about the four Ps.

I guess I just need a hug! For that, one size does fit all!!

Published by Todd Kuckkahn

I'm on a mission to revolutionize company culture and leadership.

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