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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

How to Be a Calm Business Leader During a Disaster

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Let’s face it, we’ve all had more than our fair share of disaster as of late. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most of us to adapt to unexpected change, which has been made all the more difficult due to the great deal of uncertainty surrounding the situation. At times of crisis, people tend to look toward strong and calm leaders to guide them. We only have to look toward those countries where this has been notably absent to see how a lack of clear guidance can lead to chaos.

The same goes for business. It’s perfectly natural to be caught off guard when a crisis occurs. However, it’s how you respond that can dictate whether your company is flailing to keep itself from sinking or addressing the challenges and adapting successfully. As a leader, your attitude influences those around you, and more often than not your employees and colleagues will emulate your approach. If you exude a sense of calm, you can set them on the right course. 

It’s not always easy, though. You are only human, after all, and not impervious to the pressures of a disaster. Therefore, it’s important to consider what strategies you can employ to make it easier to maintain calm when it seems everything around you is going wrong.

Plan Ahead

When a crisis arises, there tends to be a lot of confusion in the air. Likely, you’ll even be caught off guard yourself. This is why it’s important to formalize protocols that can be put into action when sudden change occurs. This gives you a step-by-step framework for how to proceed, even when you are still trying to wrap your head around the extent of what is happening elsewhere in the business.   

Writing a business continuity plan is vital here. The main goal of this tool is to ensure that when a disaster occurs, the company can keep running at an optimal level of performance. That said, an effective continuity plan doesn’t equate to a comprehensive roadmap for all disasters; rather, it produces protocols to respond to each type that is likely to affect operations. This generally includes power outages, pandemics, cyber attacks, and natural disasters — all of which are common dangers to most types of business. Bear in mind too, that there are likely to be specific challenges based on your geographical area. Look into the likelihood of severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes. This is particularly important in our contemporary environment, as the effects of climate change are expected to result in increased natural disasters.   

Each scenario needs to have a clear order of operations. This includes those who are primarily responsible for executing elements of the plan and how they should be contacted. Central to maintaining your calm during problems is the knowledge that you also have all the resources to fix those problems ready in your plan. Set up financial safety nets — emergency cash funds, lines of credit with backup suppliers, and make certain that your insurers have reinsurers in the case that your original underwriters go bankrupt during a disaster. 

Keep Communicating

We tend to associate calmness with quiet. However, this is almost the opposite of what a leader should be doing during a disaster. While you certainly shouldn’t be raising your voice or confusing matters with a lot of chatter, communication should remain constant. A silent leader leaves their business uncertain and unsupported. 

Your first responsibility here is to keep on top of the company-wide disaster communication strategy. Ensure that as soon as the crisis hits, you and the key members of your team engage in communications triage. Seek to understand who needs to receive communications — staff, customers, suppliers — and what the clearest, quickest, and most effective form of outreach is for the circumstances. It’s also important to be transparent here. A calm leader does not seek to hide the situation from stakeholders. Honest and accountable communication breeds trust.

Throughout the immediate emergency, and beyond, the key to success is in how you approach your communications. At a time when your staff feels at sea, you must exude confidence. This not only comes from communicating with your employees pragmatically but also maintaining clarity. If you make your expectations clear, you give the impression that these actions will have a positive effect on the situation. Your employees want to be assured that you know what you’re doing, and decisiveness is one of the qualities we all look for in good leaders. The best way to represent this is to keep in constant communication with staff about where the company is and where you intend for it to go. 

Engage in Collaboration

Part of being a calm and effective leader is knowing that you can’t take care of a crisis on your own. In fact, the failure to collaborate effectively increases vulnerability in a crisis. As early as possible, you need to gain the input and support of key staff from each department of your business.

Form a team made up of members of each department in your organization. This doesn’t necessarily have to be management; they should be staff who have in-depth knowledge of their area of business operations and be able to assess what the challenges can be during a disaster. Their first collaboration should be in the continuity planning phase; their insights into the potential for issues and how to solve them is invaluable. When a crisis hits, bring them together and make certain that they are working as a team to enact solutions. This delegation of responsibility means that the most urgent matters are being taken care of, and still leaving you free to calmly address other issues.  

 Your collaboration should also be with your industry partners and the local community. You know that these disasters don’t occur in a bubble, they affect others too. Strong partnerships are an essential part of leadership, and you should be focusing on the relationships you’ve built to improve your response to the crisis. This doesn’t just mean reaching out to seek assistance; being a calm leader is also about knowing that you have things under control, so you can afford to help others too. Seek to understand how your business can assist those in your network or local area to weather the storm too. 


You can’t effectively get your business through a crisis if you can’t keep a clear head. By making sure you plan ahead, you have the tools to confidently meet the challenges you face. In maintaining clear communication, and positive collaboration, you can guide your business through the worst, and inspire your team to thrive beyond it. 

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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