You may not need your disaster management skills daily, but you have to have them at the ready nonetheless. Great leaders prove their mettle in crises and emergencies. While recognizing disaster preparedness as another type of change management, mature leaders understand its challenges and subtleties.

The pairing of disaster and leadership has long represented a conundrum leadership experts could only envision solving through a military-style command-and-control formula. To this day, subconsciously or otherwise, we all tend to think of dictatorial, no-nonsense leadership as the most effective way to deal with disasters and emergencies. Many of our civil protection organizations predicate their existence upon such leadership systems.

Intelligent Leadership is Key to Optimal Disaster Management

The problem is, however, that command and control-style leadership fails to address many aspects of disasters and disaster management, such as:

  • Wide-ranging systemic breakdowns, ripple effects, and contagion
  • Uneven disaster effects
  • Complex interdependencies within an organization/community

For a leadership development professional, it is hardly a surprise that intelligent, transformative leadership, capable of sparking widespread community engagement, is the optimal way of dealing with disasters. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has piled on significant evidence supporting this approach.

How Does Transformative Leadership Handle Emergencies? 

Why does disaster management require transformative leadership?  How does mature, intelligent leadership trump military-style, dictatorial leadership to optimally handle emergencies?

  • Transformative, intelligent leadership encourages empowerment. By empowering employees/reports on every level, it primes the organization for disaster preparedness, enabling those on the front lines to make optimal decisions and take action quickly.
  • Through empowerment, this type of leadership also promotes psychological ownership in all actors involved. Someone with a sense of ownership is more likely to go the extra mile to achieve excellence instead of settling for good enough.
  • Better engagement within the community is also a result of intelligent leadership that supports the efficient handling of complex disasters.

Community Leadership and Disaster Preparedness

Community leadership may not be at home in the corporate world, but some of its tenets translate well to the corporate setting, especially concerning disaster preparedness. The applicable community leadership principles are:

  • Dialogue
  • Connective leadership
  • Collective empowerment


In the corporate context, dialogue translates to the unhindered exchange of relevant feedback across all organizational levels. As it does in a loosely organized community, such dialogue creates a climate of collaboration, sustainability, inclusive learning, and fluidity within a corporate organization. Thus, the corporate entity becomes more capable of addressing crises and disasters with all the intricacies they may entail.

Dialogue fosters cooperation, increasing efficiency. 

Connective Leadership

Connective leadership is instrumental in helping employees integrate their desires with organizational goals and objectives. It allows individuals to recognize disaster preparedness goals, assume ownership over these goals, and take action in alignment with the organizational objectives. Connective leadership takes disaster management to a grassroots level, turning every stakeholder into a decision-maker, thereby outsourcing leadership itself to some degree.

Collective Empowerment

Collective empowerment helps individuals identify their place within the complex systems of an organization. Empowerment allows every cog in the corporate mechanism to develop meaningful relationships, thus solidifying its own place within the system. It also provides clarity of purpose so employees can find value in their work. An environment that promotes empowerment creates responsible employees ready to take action for the common cause.

The ability to embrace, exploit, and manage change is one of the essential competencies of a mature, intelligent leader. As I have pointed out in my books and blog posts, disaster preparedness is a type of change management as well. Although it is an ability that leaders hope they will never have to use, one has to master this extreme type of change management because emergencies and disasters truly push one’s leadership mettle to the limit.

For More Information

Do not hesitate to check out my other blog posts and my leadership development books.

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