How to Be a Better Leader in a Disaster

FREE

Become An Insider

Sign up now and get free access to hundreds of Insider articles, guides, reviews, interviews, blogs, and other premium content from the best tech brands on the Internet: CIO, CITEworld, CSO, Computerworld, InfoWorld, ITworld and Network World. Learn more.

From Japan’s triple disaster to tornadoes in the United States, catastrophe can strike anywhere. And when it does, your leadership will matter more than the specifics of your business-continuity plan. CIOs who have been through earthquakes and more share advice for calming, caring for and motivating employees who are coping with devastation.

Linda Goodspeed, vice president of IT at Nissan North America, was attending a global IT meeting at her company’s head office in Japan on March 11 and was caught in the magnitude 9.0 earthquake. The quake was among the top seven most powerful ever recorded and the strongest ever to hit the country. “People were diving under desks. Women were crying. We could see fire outside,” she says. “Window blinds were moving three feet to the left and to the right. I thought the building would fall apart.”

Goodspeed wasn’t hurt, and, to her surprise, panic didn’t prevail. Her Japanese colleagues “went into repair mode,” she says, making sure visitors were OK, leading them to chairs in quiet rooms and providing comfort. “To see people execute on this was amazing.” (For tips on how to do this, see "4 Steps to Help Your IT Team When Disaster Strikes.")

Her experience illuminates what may be an underappreciated aspect of disaster response: the preparation of corporate leaders and the workforce to handle intense, maybe unprecedented, pressure. CIOs are often initial responders to corporate emergencies, and they should understand the psychology of stress every bit as well as their IT contingency plans.

To continue reading, please begin the free registration process or sign in to your Insider account by entering your email address:
Insider Resume Makeover: How (and When) to Break the Rules
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies