Orange and blue smoke

Are You Warm Blooded or Cold Blooded?

June 7, 2024

At Kith, we often say that a crisis does not develop your leadership skills – it reveals them. It also reveals what type of creature you are: warm blooded or cold blooded. 

Now, obviously, humans are warm blooded as a matter of biology, so what we’re really asking you to consider is more about your “creature” style as a leader-communicator when faced with the unpleasant reality of a crisis. 

Cold-blooded communicators are most active when under really bright lights. They are at their absolute best when the spotlight is hot and unrelenting – like during a crisis. Cold-blooded communicators absolutely excel in the moment of a crisis. Then, when the bright lights fade, they slow their metabolism down and take a beat to recharge, fully ready to engage again when the spotlight next finds them.

Conversely, warm-blooded communicators manage their metaphorical body temperature regardless of whether it’s uncomfortably hot or calmly cool. They’re consistent and self-regulating in any condition – never too amped up, but also never too reserved. They are even-keeled and systematic in how they communicate and lead, both during times of crisis and periods of calm.

Being one type is not better than the other. Both carry attributes that are effective in mitigating, managing, and recovering from crises. But, what’s most important is knowing how you show up both when the fire is roaring and when it’s out. 

At Kith, we have both kinds, which makes us very good at what we do. We are the calm in the storm, but also the level voice of reason and experience when we are methodically preparing. 

It’s natural to have an emotional – almost visceral – reaction to a crisis as it unfolds around you. Awareness of how you best show up is a first step toward developing and reinforcing patterns of behavior that will make you even better as a communicator, whether during crisis or during calm.

The next step is deciding what you’re going to do about it. If you are more cold-blooded by nature, how can you learn to regulate yourself during the colder periods, instead of waiting for the next crisis to show up? If you trend towards being more warm-blooded, how can you learn to lean harder into the occasion, to rise up and meet the moment when you are most needed? And what will you do to empower you to show up even better?

Here are five key principles to keep in mind:

Focus on Moving Forward: Instead of dwelling on the why or how of how a crisis landed in your lap, focus on finding solutions. This applies when you’re responding to a crisis and when you’re in a period of calm. For cold-blooded types, maintaining forward momentum will help you regulate yourself during calmer times..

Focus on Improving Crisis Response: During a crisis, you rely on your organization’s crisis training and plans to help determine what needs to happen and when. Once the heat goes down, focus on how to make the crisis plan better – learn from both mistakes and wins. Set aside time for crisis training exercises and seek training opportunities for the crisis team. (Aside: don’t have a crisis plan? Click here).

Don’t Let Your Blood Boil: It’s easy to let the intense heat of a crisis overwhelm your personal system regulation. Don’t go it alone. Spread that heat among peers. Gather your core crisis team to review your protocols, plans, and next steps as you triage the issue; bring in the experts (legal team, board members, stakeholders) as needed; and move with purpose. This is when you step up as a leader rising to the occasion. It also keeps your blood – and anyone else’s – from boiling.

Listen Actively: All creatures, whether they’re warm- or cold-blooded, constantly survey their surroundings and adapt as conditions change. Keep the pulse of your team. Actively listen to their concerns and feedback. A good leader will acknowledge others’ perspectives and validate their feelings, even if they don’t have all the answers. This applies during a crisis and during “down time.” 

Lead by Example: Demonstrate resilience, adaptability, and a willingness to take on challenges. Your actions will speak louder than words. Remember that leading in a crisis requires a combination of empathy, decisiveness, and two-way communication, whether you are naturally warm- or cold-blooded. Leading during calm periods requires the same things. Focusing on them during cooler periods will help keep your crisis blood warm.

Kith facilitates crisis preparedness workshops that will help your company attain the clarity, trust and speed you need to respond confidently – no dithering! – to any crisis. We’d be happy to have a conversation about how we can help your company be ready to chart an effective course to reputation protection.

Is your business ready to handle a crisis? Take our Crisis-Proof Your Business assessment and gain valuable insights to prepare your business for any crisis, and subscribe to Crisis of the Month, a quick-and easy crisis exercise that cuts out the newspaper. Once a month, we’ll send you a situation with three questions that you can ask at your next staff meeting. There. You’ve done a crisis exercise and are stronger for it. Sign up for Crisis of the Month here

Jeff Blaylock

Jeff is an experienced strategic communications and public affairs professional who has advised organizations through challenging media and political environments, public affairs campaigns, reputation management, message development and crises.