Traversing the storm: An interdisciplinary review of crisis leadership

Michael D. Collins, Marie T. Dasborough, Heath R. Gregg, Changmeng Xu, Catherine Midel Deen, Yaqing He, Simon Lloyd D. Restubog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An organizational crisis is a low-probability, high-impact event that threatens the survival of organizations and individuals, often with little warning. In response, people seek clarity, reassurance, and hope from organizational leaders. Yet, crises also vary in nature and impact (e.g., a product failure versus the COVID-19 pandemic), which presents diverse challenges to leaders and differing stakeholder perceptions. Based on a critical analysis of 69 empirical articles, we provide a comprehensive, systematic, interdisciplinary review of the crisis leadership literature. Our review utilizes the Coombs and Holladay (1996) crisis typology, where crises are categorized according to mutually exclusive attributional dimensions (i.e., internal–external and intentional–unintentional). We conduct a thematic analysis of crisis leadership within and across these four crisis categories and find that each is associated with a different leadership theme. We also examine the methodological quality and rigor of the qualitative and quantitative articles in our review. Based on our findings, we also offer suggestions to guide future crisis leadership research, and provide guidance for organizational leaders in how to respond to various crises.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101661
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Crisis
  • Leadership
  • Review
  • Thematic Analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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