Leaders' sensemaking under crises: emerging cognitive consensus over time within management teams

Ian A. Combe*, David J. Carrington

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When facing a crisis, leaders' sensemaking can take a considerable amount of time due to the need to develop consensus in how to deal with it so that vision formation and sensegiving can take place. However, research into emerging cognitive consensus when leaders deal with a crisis over time is lacking. This is limiting a detailed understanding of how organizations respond to crises. The findings, based on a longitudinal analysis of cognitive maps within three management teams at a single organization, highlight considerable individual differences in cognitive content when starting to make sense of a crisis. Evidence for an emerging viable prescriptive mental model for the future was found, but not so much in the management as a whole. Instead, the findings highlight increasing cognitive consensus based on similarities in objectives and cause-effect beliefs within well-defined management teams over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-322
Number of pages16
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date7 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Funding: ESRC - EREBUS capacity building cluster - reference: RES-187-24-00


  • cognitive content
  • cognitive mapping
  • collective leadership
  • mental models


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