Navigating the Tensions of Leading Under Conditions of Crisis and Uncertainty

LII Faculty Authors: Dr. John M. Hinck & Dr. Steven B. Davis

This article examines two leadership cases of Captain Brett Crozier and Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly during the crisis caused by Covid-19 conditions aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Based on consideration of over 1400 definitions of leadership and examining leadership literature published in the 10 top-tier journals between 2000–2020, the research team further explored 74 leadership domains. Transformational, adaptive, authentic, destructive, and toxic leadership were selected as frameworks for analysis of the cases. The study showed that Crozier’s leadership aligned more with adaptive, authentic, and transformational frameworks while Modly’s words and actions embodied more elements of transactional, destructive, and toxic leadership. In the face of ethical and leadership challenges, Modly and the Navy put forth shifting narratives and justifications for their actions, while Crozier’s message remained steadfast and clear. The study concludes by noting how Crozier's values and actions hold more promise for leading under conditions of crisis and uncertainty by modeling classical Aristotelian concepts of arete and phronesis--dimensions of ethos--accounting for how individuals respond to critical moments in the life of a community in authentic, adaptive, and transformational ways.