This study’s goal is to answer the question: in what ways do an individual leader’s cognitions affect how flexible they are during the sense making and decision making tasks of crisis management? This study aims to assist in bridging two fields in the literature: crisis management and individual leadership cognitions. Cognitive-institutional analysis and Leadership Trait Analysis (LTA) emerged as the two main approaches to crisis management in the literature bridging these two fields. My research assists in developing the LTA approach by analyzing the leader’s behavior during the sense-making and decision-making tasks for flexibility, as predicted by their leadership traits. This study analyzes President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and President Johnson during the U.S.S. Pueblo Crisis. This study found that the two were expected to perform each task in opposite ways during their respective crises: Kennedy flexibly and Johnson inflexibly. To test this, this study traced how each leader behaved during the sense-making and decision-making tasks. They were then compared to accentuate the differences in leadership style, highlighted by the differences in their leadership traits. Future research should expand the depth of leaders analyzed, the type of crises in which leaders are examined, and the institutional contexts in which they operate.


Kille, Kent


Political Science


International Relations | Leadership Studies | Political Science


crisis management, leadership, cuban missile crisis, leadership trait analysis, process tracing, uss pueblo crisis, john kennedy, lyndon johnson, sense-making, decision-making

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Jason Phillip Rhee