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Crisis leadership: when should the CEO step up?

Marela Lucero (One Lifestyle (Singapore) Pte. Ltd, Singapore)
Alywin Tan Teng Kwang (Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore)
Augustine Pang (Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 7 August 2009




One explicit leadership role the chief executive officer (CEO) can play during crisis is to assume the role of being the organization's spokesperson. What remains unclear is at what point of the crisis should the CEO step up and how does that impact crisis communication? The purpose of this paper is to examine this question.


The meta‐analysis method is used to combine different data in various studies of one topic into one comprehensive study. More than 30 crises are meta‐analyzed.


The CEO needs to step up to revise earlier statements or when the integrity of the organization is questioned. Additionally, the CEO should step up at the beginning of the crisis if the crisis pertains to organizational transgression or when the crisis becomes unbearable to organizational reputation. As counter‐intuitive as it may, CEOs should refrain from stepping up at the height of the crisis.

Research limitations/implications

It is an exploratory study. Some cases have lesser information to analyze than others.

Practical implications

Instructive for both corporate communications practitioners and CEOs as they have a framework to guide them on when the CEOs should step up, and when the presence of corporate communications would suffice.


Little has been studied to clarify the exact nature, role, and impact of the CEO as organization spokesperson in crises. This paper provides the initial template.



Lucero, M., Tan Teng Kwang, A. and Pang, A. (2009), "Crisis leadership: when should the CEO step up?", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 234-248.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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