Sir Richard Shirreff

Co-Founder and Managing Partner
Strategia Worldwide

After graduating from Oxford Sir Richard Shirreff served in the British Army for 37 years, commanding soldiers on operations and in combat at every level, rising to the highest rank before retiring from the Army as NATO’s Deputy Supreme Commander Europe. Richard has extensive experience of building the unity of effort with different nations, governments, the humanitarian and developmental community together with a wide variety of other stakeholders in order to resolve complex problems.

Richard has a first-hand understanding of the challenges of decision making under extreme pressure and a proven record of leading dynamic change management to support corporate leaders in the design and execution of strategy to manage complex risks. 


Drawing on his 37-year career in the British Army, Richard identifies the need for resilience in crisis to underpin everything. As with everything this starts with selecting the right leader and that means someone who can inspire people to do willingly and well what needs to be done.


Leadership in Crisis

Selecting the right leader

  • The ability to lead people does not come with the job.
  • You can’t parachute someone who has no experience of leadership into a leadership role and expect them to succeed.
  • Leaders have to be selected, educated, and trained to become leaders.

What underpins leadership – and therefore the ability to respond in a crisis?

  • If morale is high, people lead themselves and they have the resilience to cope when things go wrong. Leaders have to build, maintain, and nurture good morale.
  • Communication. Leadership needs the ability to connect with people, to communicate. Can only connect if you understand your people, their needs, their fears and can reassure them through the power of your personality that you have their interests at heart. EQ not IQ.
  • Planning but don’t get fixated on the plan. Stay agile, stay adaptable. The more you understand, the greater the agility of decision-making.
  • War-gaming/ Stress-testing. This is all about developing the intellectual muscle memory which kicks in when needed.
  • Drills and standard operating procedures. Ensure that people take action quickly and, if necessary, without orders.
  • Mission command. Trust the people on the ground to use their initiative –they must understand the intent and be crystal clear about what is to be achieved. And they must also have the resources and support.
  • Keeping a reserve. If the reserve is committed, generate another one, however difficult and however small.

Conclusion. At the end of the day crisis management is about building resilience through planning, war-gaming, training, educating and keeping something in reserve. But it is always about leadership.