Leadership skills are immediately challenged when an accident happens, but the foundations of good leadership are laid down in everyday working life. That is the opinion of Per Calleberg, a psychologist who works with leadership and crisis management in shipping, among other areas.
The last speaker at the SAN conference was Per Calleberg from the consulting agency Brolinwestrell. He is specialised in leadership and crisis management and is co-author of a book entitled Krishantering i arbetslivet (Occupational crisis management). According to Per Calleberg, really difficult situations show up any shortcomings in management. If roles and mandates are hazy, if the division of responsibilities is not clear and there is no loyalty to the job, things become problematic.
“Investigations we have carried out after crises show that if there were problems in dealing with the situation, one of these areas almost always had deficiencies. If an officer ducks out
of his responsibilities, it can lead to conflicts in everyday life. If it is not clear who should do what, there is a large risk that neither the crisis organisation nor crisis management will work properly,” says Per Calleberg.
He believes that hierarchical organisations, such as those on ships, generally find it easier to deal with accidents and crises than flat organisations. There is a clear distribution of responsibilities and people are used to following orders. The fact that you live in a limited area and spend work and leisure time together does not necessarily mean that roles are diffuse, says Per Calleberg.
“It’s not a problem to sit and chat about private issues and then switch to your working role. Doing both of these is part of modern and professional leadership. It can be wise, though, for an officer to clarify when he is moving from one role to the other.”
Research carried out in connection with accidents proves that leadership in crisis situations
is extremely impor-tant. People react differently in such situations, but the majority (60%) tend to deny warning signs and choose to believe that there is no danger. Once the crisis is a fact, only one person in four reacts strongly and tries to avoid the danger, escape or help others. As many as 60% wait for someone else to say what should be done, while the remaining 15% are paralysed or panic.
“Knowledge and practice is needed for officers to handle such situations. The more you train for this type of scenario, the more rational you can stay in a real situation,” says Per Calleberg.