EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation November 5, 2008
Leadership Challenges in Emergency Management
A Moderated Panel Discussion
Jane Kushma, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Institute for Emergency Preparedness
Jacksonville State University
Janet K. Benini, CEM®
Affiliated Professor, Public Policy Institute
Principal, Emergency Management and Homeland Security
The introduction, presentation, and closing parts of the transcript are prepared remarks and are not necessarily verbatim. The discussion portion is prepared from a transcription of the recording. The complete slide set ( Adobe PDF) may be downloaded for ease of printing.
[Welcome / Introduction]
Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Welcome to EMforum.org! We are trying out a new format today, a panel discussion, and we hope you will enjoy it. Our topic is timely today in light of the election and a new administration soon to take over.
I have personally wanted to do this topic for quite awhile, since I believe that the importance of leadership is under recognized in emergency management. We have seen that leadership, for good or bad, can have a significant impact, in ALL phases of emergency management. I would also suggest that emergency management presents some unique challenges that have not been adequately addressed in the literature.
Please note the related poll on our homepage. "Your most serious leadership challenge is the lack of: official or executive support; interagency collaboration; clear public expectations; (all of the above)." Please take time to participate by voting and review the results thus far.
Now it is my pleasure to introduce our guest panelists:
Dr. Jane Kushma is an Associate Professor of Emergency Management at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Dr. Kushma has been teaching emergency management at the college level for more than twelve years, and has led curriculum development efforts at both the graduate and undergraduate levels at several institutions. She developed and teaches the course, "Emergency Management Leadership and Organizational Behavior." Currently she is developing a course treatment on the theme of Leadership in Emergency Management for EMI's Higher Education program. She has recently assumed the position of Managing Editor for the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Eric Holdeman is a principal with ICF International's Emergency Management and Homeland Security team. Previously he served as Director of the King County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) where he was responsible for emergency management and E-911 regional support to all areas of King County (which is the greater metropolitan area of the City of Seattle). Eric writes a popular blog, Disaster-Zone.com, that covers a wide range of emergency management related topics. He has previously written on the topic of facilitative leadership.
Last but not least, Janet Benini is a part-time, Affiliated Professor at the Public Policy Institute of Georgetown University, where she teaches a course on "Leadership During Crisis". She also teaches "Catastrophe Management and Crisis Leadership" for George Washington University. From 2003 to 2005, Janet Benini was Director of Response and Planning for the White House Homeland Security Council. Mrs. Benini has been an emergency manager for U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) before and after the White House assignment. She also previously served as Chief of Program Development for the California Specialized Training Institute.
Welcome to you all and thank you for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to Dr. Kushma to start us off please.
Jane Kushma: We could walk into any library or bookstore, or even do a quick Google search and we would find immediately that there is no shortage of information or theories about leadership. Today, we find ourselves in an environment where:
A key question for us then is how to effectively negotiate such challenging waters and orchestrate "collective commitment" to emergency management goals? The answer may lie in effective leadership.
Why is leadership important for emergency management?
We need to acknowledge that traditional notions of leadership no longer serve us
When addressing challenges associated with emergency management, hierarchical or command-and-control approaches have proven less effective than more collaborative ones. We need to think systematically and strategically, or as Jack Harrald has argued, our systems require discipline and agility.
Peter Senge (1990) introduced us to the notion of the learning organizations in his book The Fifth Discipline and talked about leaders this way:
"In a learning organization, leaders are designers, stewards, and teachers. They are responsible for building organizations where people continually expand their capabilities to understand complexity, clarify vision, and improve shared mental models that is, they are responsible for learning."
We all share responsibility to contribute effectively
New notions of leadership are inclusive there are many opportunities to participate, and we all must make a commitment to successful outcomes. Perhaps it also "takes a village" to create an effective emergency management system.
Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways
For example, we might assert that forming good working relationships or being a constructive member of a group is demonstrating good leadership, as is helping others to succeed, or being empathetic or compassionate in our dealings with others.
Leadership skills can be learned and developed
We have seen an explosion of training courses and institutes devoted exclusively to leadership skill development, and personal coaching is now widely available to help improve performance.
In the words of John F. Kennedy, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
What is emergency management leadership?
Is it crisis leadership, or the actions that we take in the "glare of the spotlight" and "heat of the battle?" Is it collaborative leadership, or the type of leadership that figures out how to create constructive processes for working together, engaging a wide group of stakeholders in appropriate and meaningful ways? Is it servant leadership, which also emphasizes collaboration as well as actions that foster trust and show empathy, focusing on being good stewards of resources? Is it transformational leadership, or the process of inspiring change and empowering others to achieve improvements for themselves and their organizations? Or is it "all of the above?"
Whatever leadership model or combinations of models we choose to follow, it is clear that we have many opportunities to demonstrate leadership and improve our condition. The stakes are too high for us not to take this seriously.
As Albert Schweitzer said: "Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing."
What can we learn from the Federal Senior Executive Service Leadership Model?
As was mentioned earlier, ideas about needed leadership skills and personal qualities abound. As a general conception of leadership skills needed for government agencies, the Guide to Senior Executive Service Qualifications (U.S. OPM, 2006) is worth examining. Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) include the following five areas:
The SES Leadership model offers a research-based framework that points to essential competencies needed to perform well in senior executive positions, but I think you will find many applications for emergency management leaders as well. The document is available for download. [http://www.opm.gov/ses/references/ses_quals_guide_2006.pdf]
Selected Leadership Links
Collaborative Leadership - http://tamarackcommunity.ca/CL_index.html
Center for Creative Leadership - http://www.ccl.org/leadership/index.aspx
The Community Leadership Association - http://www.communityleadership.org/dnn/
Center for Servant Leadership - http://www.greenleaf.org/
Emotional Intelligence - http://www.eiconsortium.org/index.htm
Emotional Intelligence and Emergency Response - http://morethansound.net/wordpress/?p=36
In summary, I think it makes sense for those of us in emergency management to think about leadership and discover approaches and strategies that will apply to our own unique situations. Its important for us to have these conversations about leadership (I hope this will be the first of many!) so that we can share ideas about what works and share resources that may be helpful. We need to put leadership "front and center" for us -- and not be an "afterthought."
I would now like to turn the "virtual podium" over to someone who is an excellent role model for emergency management leadership, Mr. Eric Holdeman. One example of Erics leadership for which I am particularly grateful is the effort he puts into his weekly emergency management blog. I always learn something new.
Eric Holdeman: Thanks Jane and hello to everybody.
Everyone is a leader, not just supervisorsStart with yourself
You manage a calendar, a budget and a program. But, you "lead" people. No matter what your position in an organization you lead by example and how you interface with other people. If you want to work on being a leader, start by becoming a good listener. Good leaders listen!
There are all types of leadership styles. The most important thing to do as a leader is to be yourself
Dont just look around to see how someone else behaves as a leader and say, "Im going to be like that." You need to take good leadership principles and apply them to the context that is you.
Emergency managers are leaderseven if they dont want to be
Because of the positions we hold as emergency managers you will be thrust into leadership positions. When disaster strikespeople will look to you for leadership. "What should we do? Where should we go? How should we behave?" These are perhaps the unspoken questions that will be on their minds that you have the answers to. Be prepared for the challenge when it comes.
The act of functioning as a leader will help you lead in the future
Look for opportunities to lead. It may only be as a facilitator at a breakout session, or reporting back for your small group. Volunteer for these opportunities and you will get low risk experience in leading.
Mistakes will be made, learn from them and grow as a leader
Dont feel as though you have to be the perfect leader. Everyone makes mistakes. Leaders make more of them because they are making decisions for others. You cant be a leader and be a perfectionist. It will drive you and the people you lead crazy!
Leadership Challenges in Emergency Management
Responsibilitybut no authority
This is the classic pickle that emergency managers find themselves in. When disaster strikes and things go wrong, who gets the blame? But, what authority did you have to get your jurisdiction or organization ready for the disaster? Everyone is too busy to work on something that only "might happen" versus the real work that needs to be done now for "what is happening."
An emergency management program is perhaps required by law or by standard. A director is also required, as is a disaster plan. Once those basics are in placeyou can be left to be by yourself and not expected to make waves, or more work for others. It is up to you to build the case for what needs to be done. Use "windows of opportunity" (they are disasters, in your community or anywhere around the world) to build support for your emergency management program.
Where is your emergency management program located? There is no perfect place for where your program should reside. If it is independent and working directly for the chief elected official, or CEO and they dont have an interest in your department then you are as likely to take budget cuts as anyone else. Being buried in another larger department can help take some of the budget pressures off, but it can mean that you are a small fifth wheel in a larger organization that does not understand your function and mission. You have to make the best of each situation and work to minimize the downside of where you fit.
Setting expectations: How "ready" do you say you are?
- Elected Officials
Do you say that you "are ready for everything and anything that nature or man can throw at you? Or, do you say that "you are not ready? Not ready? What have you been doing? Does the mayor know that you are not ready? We need to get someone in here to do this job that can make sure that we are "ready!" This is a dance you need to learn. Projecting confidence, but not to the extent that people think they dont have to do anything themselves. I believe in talking about everything that has been done, is being done, and then what needs to be done by othersto have "us" be ready.
Who gets along with who?
You are in charge of weaving together a cohesive emergency management program that cuts across departmental, jurisdictional and discipline fault lines that separate people in functions in our communities. Sometimes it is difficult to do the above, since "everyone doesnt get along." It is natural to have conflict in the work place and in our communities. If you have a "difficult customer" who is not cooperatingIve found that there is little you can do to bring them along. Work at it, dont make them an enemy, but instead work with those who want to be on your team. Go where there is positive energy!
ICSNIMS Incident Commander
- Field Yes
- EOC Maybe not
ICS and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) have been good things for our response system. However, it has led many people to believe that there will always be one person in charge and giving the orders. In our multi-governmental society it just doesnt work that way at the EOC. It is rare that you will have a command capability at the EOC. There are too many agencies and governments in play for that to happen.
Multi-agency, Multi-jurisdictional environments
This is the new norm, especially when you start operating in a regional setting. The spirit of cooperation is the only ally you have on your side.
Coordination vs. Command
In King County I changed the name of the EOC to ECC (Emergency Coordination Center) because of the fact that it accurately describes what takes place in the facility, and the role that we are attempting to achieve. Commandin the field, coordination at the EOCespecially in regional responses.
This is a term I use to describe a manner for leading people and organizations over whom you do not have direct authoritywhich I think is the general norm for emergency managers. It is not typically directive in nature and the foundation for it is built over time during the preparedness and mitigation phases of emergency management. Many times it is just pure invitational!
Must have relationships in place before an event
Emergency management is a team sport. Relationships take time to build. First establish a relationship. That will lead to the building of trust. Once you have trust established you can begin to share information and even resources. In the end it is the only opportunity to move from coordination to partnering to collaboration.
Challenge: Setting Work Priorities
#1--Have a disaster response plan
#2--Have a response capability
- Conduct exercises
All of the above items are basic to having an emergency management program. If you are the leader and you dont have these in placeand disaster strikes, you are in big trouble.
The challenge then is that you dont have the time and other resources to do everything that that all the new standards say you should be doing. You have to pick and choose from the list of items below, and others.
Mitigation plan, recovery plan, Panflu plan, dam failure plans, public education, Homeland Security grants, logistics and resource management, HAZMAT, HIVA, equipment maintenance, etc., exercises for all of the above, staff administration
I believe on working on those tasks that bring with them funding and resources, or lacking that, an interest in the topic by the people and organizations who need to be at the table. If flooding is your big hazard and it motivates people to plan, train and exercise together--work on flooding issues. I found pandemic flu was a topic that had executive support and therefore interest from the other segments of my government. Therefore, I think we put together the best (at least the thickest) local government pandemic flu plan in history. It has a true "thud factor" when you drop it on a table!
I will now turn the floor over to Janet Benini.
Janet Benini: Thank you, Eric.
Leadership Styles and Emergency Management
For this next segment of our session, we want to build on the comments from my colleagues. As they said, leadership is critical but theres not just one leadership style. For the sake of simplicity, I divided leadership into three styles, as you see on this slide: Autocratic, Laissez-Faire, and Collegial. All of these traits are important, but some are particularly useful at one phase of the emergency management process.
For example, with an autocratic leader, you always know, "Whos in Charge". This is important at an incident site, where decisions need to be made quickly about things like sending firefighters into a burning building. And the responders need to have the confidence that their commander understands the big picture and is looking out for them. An autocratic leader, however, may have problems during the recovery phase from a disaster, where there are many players, many objectives and many people in charge of different things.
A laissez-faire (which is French for "leave it alone") leader trusts their people -- that they will do the right thing. This leadership style worked very well for the US Coast Guard during Hurricane Katrina, where small teams were dispatched into Southern Louisiana with the general guidance to "find people and save them"; and the teams worked out their own strategies and tactics based on the situations they found. Where this style might be more difficult is during the mitigation phase, where its easy to put things off until tomorrow, to spend precious funds and resources on needs that seem more pressing. A leader needs to keep raising the hard things to the groups attention and making sure progress is made.
The collegial leader works for consensus. This is useful during several phases in emergency management, and probably is most important during the planning phase. Here, the job is to encourage people and organizations to transcend their traditional turfs and boundaries and all work together for the common good. But consensus takes time, and sometimes during emergency response, we dont have time. Overall, though, I like to quote Bob Stephan, who described the successful emergency manager as the "conductor of the orchestra" not telling the musicians how to play their instruments, but helping them to work together to play a melody not a cacophony!
Management Styles Examples of Former Presidents
Now, lets take a look at the leadership styles of some past Presidents. Harry Truman tended to be the autocratic type: "Not all problems can be solved, but they can all be decided." Our current President has also characterized himself as "The decider". As I mentioned, this can be helpful "in the heat of battle". But as one of my mentors advised me, when in doubt about a decision one of the first questions a leader should ask himself is, "Do I have to decide right now?" Frequently, with a little more time, the right choice among options becomes clearer.
George HW Bush may have at times represented the "laissez-faire" leadership style; who let his managers manage, and only stepped in when an issue became a crisis.
Jimmy Carter has been used as an example in management books of a person who had a strong collaborative management style. The Iranian Hostage Crisis, however, pointed out one of the vulnerabilities of this style, and that is failing to reach a conclusion.
Some Insights Into Obamas Management Style
So, what do we know about President-elect Obamas management style? As you can see from these three examples, Barack Obama tends to look at the big picture. He is a collaborator, and likes to have people with divergent opinions around him. Will he be able to bring those divergent opinions together, reach a consensus or at least a well-reasoned decision, and then implement it? The voters last night felt he can.
During the campaign, Mr. Obama expressed his belief that homeland security is "all-hazards" and must engage all stakeholders, including the State and law enforcement. In terms of threats, Obama has been particularly interested in the threat of "loose nukes" and preventing nuclear weapons and materials that could be used as weapons from entering this country.
The leaders of this session asked me to conclude this segment with thoughts on what might be the priorities of the next administration. Based solely on my government and academic experience, and with no inside information from the Obama team, I would like to offer the three themes as priorities:
Emergency Management Priorities for the Next Administration
Homeland Security has been a focus in emergency management for the last seven years. Due to executive and congressional leadership, homeland security was highlighted as a separate entity outside of emergency management. It now needs to come back into the emergency management "tent". We need to clean up definitions and organizations to make them clearly all-hazards. The grant programs should be used for the best benefit of the community and the nation.
I previously was the leader at the White House for the development of the 2005 National Response Plan, a document that had its faults, but was a step forward. I think weve now lost our momentum and need to re-group and re-commit to developing a true National Response Plan that involves all levels of government, the private sector and non-governmental organizations recognizing that all disasters start as local disasters, and using the strengths of each organization and coordinating their activities for the benefit of our citizens.
Part of this true National Response Plan needs to be a real Catastrophic Incident capability. Our current Catastrophic annex and supplement were created in a hurry based on a particular threat. They would be useful in the very first hours and days of a catastrophic event but in no way address the many, many issues that arise in a catastrophic incident, which I believe is a qualitatively different event from a "regular" disaster, not just more of the same. You only have to look at Southern Louisiana, three years after Hurricane Katrina, to understand what I mean.
With global climate change and the continuing terrorist threat, catastrophic planning becomes increasingly urgent.
Third, I would propose the next administration focuses energies and efforts on making our nations communities more inherently resilient. This means not just protecting and strengthening infrastructure, although that is vital, but also taking a systems approach to providing essential services, and developing alternatives that kick in almost automatically to continue to serve our communities, while we repair damage and restore other elements of the systems.
So, we have given our views, and I know we are very interested in your thoughts and comments. Amy, I turn it back over to you.
Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Janet. Now, to proceed to our Panel Discussion. I will be proposing a series of questions related to the topic at hand. Our panelists will offer their thoughts. After each question, you may also offer your input or ask a question and we will include as many as we can, time permitting.
Moderator: Why does leadership matter in Emergency Management? Can you provide some examples of successful leadership and failed leadership? Jane, would you please start us off again?
Jane Kushma: I think one of the most compelling reasons that leadership matters for us is simply because there is so much at stake.
What do we want in our leaders? Well, I think we want them to be knowledgeable, informed, engaged, and also to be thoughtful in their assessments. We also want them to be compassionate, I think, and to recognize when people are hurting and to provide comfort to them. Finally, I think we want them to be sincere and to engender our trust and our confidence that they will behave ethically and with our best interest at heart.
Failed leaders often give the appearance of being out of touch. They can appear insensitive to peoples needs, or they can even show up as being arrogant and over-confident with respect to what needs to be done. I think we can all think back to recent disasters and identify folks who would fall into both categories.
Eric Holdeman: I wouldnt mind talking about Michael Brown. In our society, we like to point fingers and identify, just like if we want one person to be in charge, we want one person to blame. We have this innate sensemaybe its the media leads usbut we want to blame one person or one institution.
Looking at Katrina, certainly Michael Brown was the person who took the heat on it. Did he have issues as a leader at the time of Katrina? I would say, certainly. He didnt have all the experience and all the tools to make it happen, but the failure for his leadership in the event did not just happen thenits in the building up to it. He did not have the relationships in place within FEMA itself and the Department of Homeland Security for him to be effective.
So when you come to the crisis point and you say, "this is an example of failed leadership", it didnt happen just at that single point in time. Theres a history behind that person; theres a history behind the organization. Certainly Katrina was not a failure of just Michael Brown. It was a failure of the entire system as it existedthe city, the parish, the stateeveryone bore some responsibility in there and it shows the complexity of what were dealing with in the emergency management world. Its not based on single, individual.
Yes, we can make incredible differences as individuals, but were very dependent on everyone else doing their part and making sure it all weaves together. Its the only way were going to be successful in leadership, if everyone is doing their part.
Janet Benini: I think that there are five functions of a leader and how they perform those functions determines their success or failure:
The first one is making sense of the situation. An example of that would bewhen does a so-called normal hurricane become something that is catastrophic event, like Hurricane Katrina? One of the problems with Hurricane Katrina was that it took us awhile among our leadership to realize that this was not a normal hurricane. So thats a problem in making sense of the situation.
The second function that a leader does is provide meaning to situations. That was what Jane was referring to as far as meeting with victims. The director of FEMA always goes to the disaster site. Usually the President goes there, and thats a way that a leader can make meaning of whats going on and make it useful at a human level.
The third thing, which most people think of, is decision-making. We covered in our joint presentations that there really are very few top leadership decisions if you have your organization structured right. But there are some times when decisions have to be made and they usually involve lose-lose situations. So a good leader makes a good decision in that type of environment.
The fourth thing is terminating the disaster. When is it over? If you call it too soon, you still have unresolved problems. If you drag it on too long, people dont get back to their normal lives.
The last thing, and the hardest thing of all, is learning from the disaster, and how do you improve your system the next time.
I think a successful leader would be successful in those five characteristics and an unsuccessful one (and I think we can all think of examples of that) probably missed the boat there.
Moderator: What are some of the inherent leadership challenges unique to emergency management? Eric, you addressed this in your opening remarks. Would you like to elaborate at this point?
Eric Holdeman: Only to say that each setting is different. You have to react and interact with the personalities and the organizations that make up [your emergency management], whether its internal to your organization, your government, your company, and/or your regional community. So you cant just cookie-cutter what the right solutions are.
I do believe you can always find willing partners out there to work with you if you treat them as equals and dont try to dictate to others (part of what I would call the facilitated leadership), where you really come together in collaboration as a word that has replaced words like inform, coordinate, and partner. You can start just by sharing information with one another and resources with one another. Partnering is where you actually put some skin in the game on both sides of it. And collaboration is a very popular word, but its rarely seen. This is where you come to the table with no agenda of your own and say, "How about working together on this?"
The potential for success is so great and so needed in our discipline with that type of approach because you just arent going to be able to dictate the outcomes in our jurisdictional, multi-leveled form of government.
Gerald McMillen: Are there any examples on how to break down the walls between jurisdictions or departments to bring about more distributed emergency management? Is developing relations really the most important way to do this?
Eric Holdeman: I do believe relationships are the key thing. Youve got to go out, get out of your office, and go meet with them on their turf, on their schedule, and work at it. And, perhaps its not just a one-time event there to make that happen. Certainly I mentioned about thisyou cant make people come to the table. If they dont want to, and you make the approach and the offer is there, (I used to tell my staff, "Friends come and go but enemies you keep forever") dont make people and organizations into enemies. At least have them be neutral to what is going on within your community. The idea is to get out there, get to know them as individuals, and thats where you start to form trust. Once you have trust, then the potential and opportunities really open up for the future. But no relationship, no trust, youre not going to get to first base.
Janet Benini: Id like to also suggest that exercises are a great way to develop this trust and relationship and the collaboration. When I was with the California Office of Emergency Services, we did training and exercises for the jurisdictions in California.
I can tell you that there were times when we went into cities where the police chief and the fire chief hadnt spoken in years. They were competitors for budgets. They had different management styles. They had different operational modalities. But if you got them together and said, "What if we had an earthquake here?" then theyd started talking and thats how some of that trust develops.
It also helps people realize that we are mutually dependent. We may have resources that we bring, but we also rely on others. So I think exercises are a good way to build that relationship.
Jane Kushma: To echo what everybody is saying, that I really agree that the collaborative approach is the way to go in building this relationship, but we also have to be realistic that it takes time and its really going to require a lot of patience on our part. All those suggestions that have been made about how to do this, and how to facilitate this process, I would definitely agree with. Also, just making sure that were up for the challenge and having that patience to see it through.
Moderator: Do the different phases of Emergency Management call for different types of leadership styles? Janet, you reviewed leadership styles previously. Lets go ahead and take a related question.
Glynn Cavin: On the leadership styles slide, three styles are depicted. Of course we know that there are as many different definitions as there are experts. But I thought you might want to consider the styles offered by Bass in his total leadership model. In particular, you labeled the hands off style as laissez-faire, however, with the theory Bass offers, Management by Exception-Passive might fit better.
Janet Benini: I think the description probably fits my "laissez-faire" and its in English rather than French, and well give it some points there.
Jane Kushma: I guess the only thing that I would add is to just point out something that I had included on my list of links. Im a big, big fan of emotional intelligence work, and there have been a number of linkages made between emotional competencies and leadership skills. Theres a very interesting podcast that is now available by one of the proponents of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goldman, and he talks about the relationship of emotional intelligence and emergency response. So I would call that to folks attention, and if you have a chance listen to the podcast. That link is on the slide. [http://morethansound.net/wordpress/?p=36]
Eric Holdeman: I want to add that just as you lead people, you dont treat all people exactly the same. You have to use different leadership styles with different people, and different situations call for different types of leadership styles. I have this very collegial, facilitated, collaborative leadership style, but when we would go into an activation, and were on day seven of a 7 by 24 operation, and a decision needed to be made, and people will, Ill call it, "fiddle-farting" around, my B.S. factor meter would come up and I could be very autocratic. Just get the job done and make it happen. So leaders operate across the spectrum sometimes in how they function, and sometimes you may have to be autocratic when called for.
Marianne Pollay: In a Mercatus study comparing the Katrina response of FEMA/DHS to the Coast Guard and even private sector businesses (Home Depot, I think), the study authors concluded that the comparatively limited hierarchical structure of the latter two made for a more effective decision-making chain. In contrast, the multiple levels and layers of decision-makers in FEMA/DHS lead to individual decision-makers shying away from making decisions for fear of acting inappropriately and later getting blamed for wasting resources, errors in judgment, etc. In some ways, is fostering effective decision-making (effective leadership) hindered by the hierarchical form and structure of FEMA/DHS?
Janet Benini: On one hand, yes, you could say that. But its not a simple yes/no question. For the Coast Guard, their job was to do search and rescue. They werent looking into rebuilding the levees; they werent looking into evacuating people; they werent looking into all the other complexities of what had to be done there in southern Louisiana. They might be rescuing some people that were on a roof; they might be rescuing some people that were in a boat; they might be rescuing some people who were on a freeway off ramp. But the actual process that they were going through was, compared to some other things, simple. In that type of situation, its good to give people autonomy so they go out there and do what needs to be done.
On the other hand, if you have 3.5 billion dollars worth of grants to give a year, you might want to have a little bit more structure. I might have my own view about who should get those grants, and other people might have other views and theres always the chance for corruption. So you have a system for giving out the grants and hopefully the system accommodates checks and balances, developing priorities, etcetera.
I am a believer in pushing decision-making to the lowest responsible level, but that has to be a responsible level, and that involves, especially in government, more complexity than it does in business. Hierarchies per se are not really so great. It really bothers me in particular when we have to go through a hierarchical process in just passing information. But in policy-making, I think there is a role for hierarchy.
Eric Holdeman: In the military theres a term called "Commanders intent". That is the foundation for the plan youre executing. Going back to the Coast Guard thing, the mission was to rescue people. People understood the Commanders intent, and then they have the flexibility to go execute it.
What Janet was talking about, the complexityand unfortunately with our modern communication systems that we have nowthe delegation of decision authority is just not there many times. That really wreaked havoc during Katrina also, that people were trying to make decisions on the ground where they had true ground-truth information. They knew what was happening and what needed to be done. And then, theyd request supplies, what have you, and those decisions would be countermanded higher up the chain, whether back in Washington, D.C. or in the multi-state regions.
Thats the challenge of todays modern communications. They need to delegate the authority down so that the authority stays down there, and people can make the decisions at the level where they have the right information.
Moderator: Jane, can leadership training make a difference?
Jane Kushma: I think its an unequivocal yes. Theres a tremendous amount of resources that are being invested in this. I think its important to observe that we can create conditions for success or failure for ourselves and our organizations. Investing and paying attention to how leadership training can help us with that is just critical.
David Kondrup: Often I find agencies and corporate entities that have not performed a Business Impact Analysis, or even trained their managers who will ultimately assume Emergency Management roles, about the leadership requirements in emergency management. Even the basic requirements under Incident Command are not being presented. Many are struggling to get the time and funding for the IS300 and IS400 courses. That said, could the panel address the ways to increase awareness and needs for leadership training and outreach, to improve collaboration and NIMS compliance? How can we regain the momentum to get everyone involved?
Jane Kushma: We talked about the importance of exercises and all the opportunities they offer. I think thats a great example of where an exercise could be designed to have an organization experience that, and then its very clear to them what they need to do.
Janet Benini: At the executive level, its a good idea to build in what we could call training into what they would call transition briefing. Many executives feel like they dont need to be trained; theyre experts, which is why they got the job.
For example, at the department where I work, when we have the new political leaders arrive, within their first week on the job theyre going to receive training on ethics, training on financial management, and training on crisis management. Thats just an assumed part of their in-briefing. So we get them early with some key issues at the executive level, and hopefully theyll be able to take that into whatever situation they might find themselves in.
Eric Holdeman: I would tag on that that elected officials do not go to training. If you want to get information to elected officials that they need to act on or be able better to perform their functions, you need to give them a briefing, an executive review, or something. But dont call it training because theyre not going to come.
Moderator: Janet, you addressed leadership style of Obama. How do you think the new administration will affect national leadership in Emergency Management?
Janet Benini: I think that well see a broadening of participation. I think that Obama will probably carry his masterful use of the Internet into his administration, and I think there will be many opportunities for people to participate.
Eric Holdeman: Actually, I appreciated what Janet had to say in her remarks today. Before we started our session, I did a blog posting on the fact that changes will come, there will be new programs, and old programs will be done away with. I can guarantee you that the National Response Framework, or the National Response Plan, or the Federal Response Plan, whatever its called, is going to be rewritten because theres so much dissatisfaction with the manner in which the previous document was formulated, without adequate review and input and a true collaborative spirit with state and local jurisdictions. Thats a given. I think it will happen. It is going take a long time to make it happen, but thats the one change that I see coming that there will be some type of new national document there.
Jane Kushma: I think its a familiar theme that weve seen repeatedly in recent years, the need to have knowledgeable and experienced people at the helm, whether theyre appointed or career staff. I really believe that the new administration is going to work hard to recruit and place talented emergency management individuals in key positions. So Im optimistic, lots of optimism.
Amy Sebring: Time to wrap for today. Thank you very much to ALL of you for an excellent job. Please stand by just a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements:
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Thanks to everyone for participating today. On behalf of our participants, again, thank you all for an excellent program. We stand adjourned.