For the last few days, I’ve been revisiting the 4 Crisis Reaction Types handout I developed this spring at the height of the coronavirus shutdowns. As we start looking and planning into 2021, here is a quick overview of the four types, and my thoughts on how we see these reactions develop into long-term crisis management styles.

Look for a deeper dive November 11, 2020, on my YouTube channel for the Ag Lead Show where I will dig into the meat of this handout and how I’m seeing the changes between April and now manifest in operations for 2021.

Click to download the full PDF

Hide & Hunker

  • Common Reactions: Slash budgets, close doors, and avoid external decisions
  • Underlying Issue: Haven’t accepted changed yet and are stuck in fear

Yes, I’m still seeing these folks today! The Hide & Hunker reaction may be a new reaction from a different reaction type moving into this one.

Whether an individual or a leadership team of a business, they are unwilling to move on from crisis mode.

Businesses may be closed or closing with an uncertain future, the business is unable (or unwilling) to change to a new model, and the instability caused by the unknown dominates this reaction.


  • Common Reactions: Waiting for the “all clear” from an authority, such as the government, an “expert,” or a leadership figure.
  • Underlying Issue: Stuck in pause, unsure of what changes are coming

Conformists are identified by their strict adherence to rules set by what they deem to be an authority figure, an unwillingness to move a business forward without risk mitigation, and often their willingness to demand others see the world the same way.

They are rule followers to the extreme.

I’ve seen this group of reaction types become more prevalent and certainly louder in the covid landscape, but this reaction can manifest itself in many ways in all sorts of crises.

Fence Rider

  • Common Reactions: Bored and ready to move forward but need reassurance
  • Underlying Issue: Unable to take the lead; prefer someone influential to go first

Fence Riders are the eager reaction type who want change, want to move forward, but don’t want to make the first move.

Often Fence Riders will seek out a Conformist or a Vanguard (who we’ll see in a moment) to take the lead and choose a direction.

Knowing that moving forward is essential for business, the Fence Rider-led business may choose to wait to re-schedule events and make plans that are outside the Conformist’s ruleset until a Vanguard sets the precedent.


  • Common Reactions: Common Reactions: Anger then action; already innovating, ‘So, the world is different’
  • Underlying Issue: Impatient; ready to create and implement new-world solutions

If Conformists are the leaders in staying within the rules, Vanguards throw out the rulebook and make their own rules that make sense for the business and for the team.

At the front of the pack, Vanguards in the crisis are the fix-it folks who have already decided that the crisis has/is happening, and it’s time to tackle it head first.

Vanguards often are motivated by anger at the crisis, frustration with disruption, and disbelief at the other reaction types which they channel into innovation, enthusiasm, and new solutions to the crisis.

The direct opposite of Conformists, this crisis reaction type is ready to get into the situation, figure out what needs to be changed, make the change, and move on to the next great thing.

The 4 Crisis Reaction Types

Some people may fluctuate between one reaction and another, which in the extended pandemic scene we’re living through right now, I’m noticing a lot of movement between these types.

How do you see these crisis reactions playing out in your teams? Does identifying where you are, where your team is, and where you want to take your business help you decide on how to launch into 2021?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Shout out to me on Twitter @sarahbethaubrey or send me an email to Don’t forget to download the PDF and share it with your team, colleagues, and family!