Meaning making by public leaders in times of crisis : An assessment

Public leaders are expected to provide information on a crisis situation and present a plan to restore a state of normalcy. This study, based on interviews with Dutch mayors who were personally involved in crises between 1979 and 2014, assesses the various roles of public leaders’ meaning making. A total of 94 case studies were analyzed for this purpose. Responsibility and collective impact turn out to be closely intertwined phenomena, which influence the

modus operandi

as a public leader as perceived by the mayors themselves.

The Public Meaning Making Model presented, shows four distinctive roles based on the

meaning making

by Dutch mayors: the roles of ‘mourner-in-chief’, ‘orchestrator’, ‘advocate’ and ‘buddy’. All of these roles emphasize different elements that depend on the collective, emotional impact of a situation as well as on the political responsibility attributed to the public leader. This article discusses the characteristics and implications of each of the four roles.

Wouter Jong | 2017
In: Public Relations Review, ISSN 0363-8111 | 43 | 5 | 1025-1035