Report on the Annual Conference 2019: The Reality of Leading in a Crisis
By Sarah Schubert
Chaired by Roger Gomm QPM and attended by over 100 people, the Institute held its annual conference on 19 June in London at the Union Jack Club on The Reality of Leading in a Crisis.
The opening presentation was delivered by Deborah Higgins, Head of the Cabinet Office EPC, on building crisis leadership capability and how the EPC prepares people to lead in a crisis. Drawing upon the UK Government’s initiative to improve resilience and the evolution of the Integrated Emergency Management (IEM) cycle which now include validate and learn Deborah identified the key elements of crisis leadership capability. She described how crisis leadership capability required intellectual, structural, human factors and resources delivering core functions, through procedure and dynamic decision-making, and clearly defined responsibilities, behaviours and activities. Deborah highlighted to the audience a suite of tools which add rigor available on the website and her colleague, Jennifer Newton, spoke about the information available from the insight programme and the forthcoming MOOC to support industry learning which will be publicly available.
Professor Karim Brohi, Consultant and Vascular Surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, followed. He delivered a fascinating lecture on leadership and maintain institutional capability during mass casualty events from a clinical perspective. He described the phases, from a clinician’s perspective, where a single organisation’s capacity is exceeded. Professor Brohi drew upon the 2005 London Bombings and London Bridge attacks in 2017 as case studies, highlighting the competing priorities which were balanced using flash expert teams. Within these teams leadership is given, is flexible and is mastery of contingencies. These teams continue to develop their expertise with cross-industry learning and knowledge sharing from sports and aviation industries.
Just six days before his retirement Daryll Stroud led the London Fire Brigade’s response to the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in 2017. In his presentation Daryll openly spoke about the successes and challenges of the day. Through stepping back, logging the facts, and engaging his team in understanding the situation and getting their buy-in to follow-up actions the team were able to provide a robust response. Key to his team’s success was his vision to lead the response rather than trying fix it, and the inter-agency collaboration particularly marauding terrorist firearms attack training and exercising events following the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack.
Andy Wapling, Regional Head of Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response for NHS South-East and South-West Regions, followed Daryll, drawing on personal leadership of the NHS response to the Salisbury Novichok poisonings. Key to the successful response was the use of a framework which created the space and resources for the team to operate whilst maintaining the hospital’s operational capability. He emphasised the importance of continually asking questions – what, when, where, why, how – when reflecting on how his experience had changed his understanding of the unknown unknowns.
The ICPEM Award of Excellence was awarded to former officer of the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service Matt Sullivan. Matt died on 7 August 2018. The award was therefore made posthumously and presented to Matt’s wife, Sarah. Matt’s steadfast commitment to excellence in all areas of his life, both professional and private, was an inspiration to many of those he worked with.
The inaugural Bill Blake Memorial Award was also presented, open to full-time students, they submitted an essay tackling the challenging subject of Why lessons identified so often fail to become lessons learnt: a critical review. First prize was awarded to Matthew Shaw and second prize to Jennifer Newton. Both essays are published in ICPEM’s journal (Alert Summer 2019).
Ed Butler, CBE, DSO and Head of Risk Analysis at Pool Re drew upon his military experience leading an operation to extract hostages in Sierra Leone to identify lessons in leadership. He identified the importance of defining success and failure from the outset and continuing to reflect on this as situational awareness developed in the dynamic environment. To achieve this, understanding the cumulative risk and who the stakeholders are were vital as was drawing upon experience from mentors.
Learning from the international context to identify fundamental questions about whether those in the UK were ready to lead in a major emergency was the theme presented by Rob Davis, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Avon Fire & Rescue. Reflecting on his experiences through his voluntary work with SARAID in Sri Lanka following the Tsunami of 2004 and Pakistan following the 2006 earthquake Rob drew out strategic, tactical and operational questions which those in the UK could address as part of their planning and preparedness activity.
The concluding presentation was given by Professor Paresh Wankhade, Professor of Leadership and Management and Director of Research at Edge Hill University’s Business School. Professor Wankhade tackled whether there was a leadership crisis in the blue-light services. He reflected on the current UK context, and current models of leadership, where barriers exist and presented suggestions of how to move forward beyond dogma, protocols and barriers to achieve transformation, innovation and participation across the services.
About the author
Sarah Schubert is the Director of Communications for ICPEM and a Senior Consultant in Arup’s Resilience, Security and Risk team.