Because I’ve had entirely too much experience with this in the last week – before that as well, but particularly this last week.
So, your fiction is going along nicely, and your plot requires that something terrible happens causing a great crisis in the land/empire/whatever. The person (or whatever) in charge has to make decisions about how to handle said crisis.
If said leader is supposed to be competent, there are some things that you should absolutely avoid.
Do not, under any circumstances, have the boss run around generating legislation that is only going to be effective for a year or so but will probably live forever on the law books. Not only is some poor sap going to have to implement the legislation, they’ll curse the boss’s name every time they have to reprogram their – immensely complex and probably built on endless shells of accreted legacy work – fancy software to make the various systems that allow a futuristic world to work.
Trust me on this one. Everyone in my team has spent entirely too much overtime in the last week or so because of the clusterflock of rules that have been spat out from D.C. in the last couple of months. All very well-intentioned and all, but some poor sod has to program it, and believe me, working with a mainframe that’s running 50-year old legacy code is not conducive to fast turnaround. The 15-year-old code that forms the guts of the website that talks to the mainframe is bad enough.
I don’t care how futuristic things get, when it comes to rewriting an antique system that’s known to work versus adding a layer of something more modern that can talk to the antique and will take maybe 10% of the time that a full rewrite will need, the layer is going to happen. Keep it going, and you’ll eventually have software stromatolites concealing the Code of Cthulhu. It’s going to take some heavy programming skill to work with that and keep it running, so if your futuristic thriller needs a smart leader, spawning legislation and rules because people want them to Do Something is NOT the way to go.
The same can be said for knee-jerk reactions. They tend to be wrong.
In the case of a major crisis, the smart thing to do is aim to contain the immediate damage (things like quarantine if the crisis is a disease – and quarantine means that if someone is sick that person and their family go into isolation and stay there until they’ve either passed the incubation period or recovered. If it’s highly infections, the sick person and anyone they’ve had contact with goes into isolation. And if you’re a country that’s got an epidemic, you close your borders and don’t let anyone out – while everyone else closes their borders and doesn’t let anyone in.).
For fictional purposes, ruthlessness in a leader can be a good trait – while I doubt many of today’s real national leaders would ever institute a true quarantine, they can make for gripping fiction, or even interesting background and obstacles to whatever the protagonist is trying to achieve. Especially since fictional plagues can be as virulent, infectious, and lethal as you like (although please try to keep it from being uber-deadly because to really upset the applecart even fictional plagues need time to get around). The fictional leader who barricades off the quarantined city and lights some strategic fires could well be seen as a hero for getting rid of the plague – something that’s not going to play well in real life.
The third big no-no is to do nothing – or rather, to appear to be doing nothing. It may well be that after researching the problem, the best solution is to leave things alone and let people handle things themselves. Unfortunately with the twin cries of “but we must do something!” and “for the children!” a well-researched “The best thing to do is nothing” is going to have the carrying power of a lead balloon. This is where a clever leader gives the appearance of working very hard to solve the problem while carefully ensuring that no new solutions creep in and make a mess. It’s a path I’ve yet to see applied in real life, but in fiction we can make it work.
Of course, in fiction things need to make some kind of sense. Real life does not have that limitation.