Leadership has a prominent and powerful role in society and influences all aspects of life in normal as well as crisis situations. Leaders can emerge from within a group and can also be formally appointed or elected. There are many qualities that a leader should have such as intelligence, quick comprehension, decisiveness, courage, strength, confidence, education, knowledge, personality, charisma and above all integrity. There may be a long list of leadership traits but the following five attributes have strong correlation with the leadership. There are: 1. Dominance (Personality) 2. Intelligence 3. Self-confidence 4. High energy level and 5. Task related knowledge (political or organizational).


Leadership is defined as ability to influence or motivate a group or community towards achievement of certain goals. In normal circumstances, leadership is entirely different as all decisions are taken after enough thinking, after a process of consideration and reconsideration as well as with the thoughtful advice of experts in the area. There is a framework of legislation to provide formalized support and confirmation. On the other hand in crisis situations or under unstable and disruptive conditions or in disasters, tasks of leaders usually becomes difficult. The leadership from local level, district level, state level and up to national level is affected by a number of factors such as the following:

Many of the designated local leaders are themselves affected by the disaster. They could get isolated due to sudden breakdown of communications or become ineffective under traumatic condition due to the suddenness and severity of the situation.

During disaster, many of the relatives and friends of the leaders could be., affected. Their attention could get diverted to them instead of taking decision or action for relief and recovery of the community.


Lack of information and disruption of communication become serious factors hampering decision making.

Loss or delayed availability of human resources, equipment, transport and other relief commodities delays action and creates a sense of helplessness.

In the resulting confusion, community feels insecure and could lose confidence in the leadership. There may be many other factors depending on the type of disaster and the affected people. In a crisis situation requiring relief and rehabilitation of disaster affected people, administration and political leadership could have different goals.

A) District administration :


In a district, the district magistrate or district collector is chairman of the disaster relief committee. The officers’ main aim is to mount effective rescue operations for the affected people, provide immediate relief in terms of food, medicine, drinking water, clothes and temporary shelter. It depends on the leadership qualities of an administrator, how he or she gets the job done. There could be two approaches: (i) “Boss-Approach” in which one passes orders and expects that the subordinates will act according to the orders, (ii) “Team-Approach” in which full cooperation of all concerned officers and people is taken. In this case the leader will take all concerned officers into confidence, involve them in the decision making, monitor their work and guide them from time to time for effective relief operations. In disaster situation, the latter approach will be more effective and give better results.

B) Local leadership :

Local leaders would like to make their presence felt. They may or may not be having any experience of disaster management. In many cases, their intervention may sometime hinder the process of relief but may give political advantage to the local leaders. Secondly, they may openly criticize the disaster management officials with or without justification.

C) State and national level leadership :

State and national level leadership will try to provide funds and mobilize effective relief within the available resources but this leadership initiative from top will be based on an overall appreciation of the disaster situation. For the state and national level leadership to be effective, they should have accurate and up to date information from the disaster area through the district leadership and leave detailed implementation to the local established administrative system.


Before dealing with the leadership styles, it is important to know the attributes and desirable qualities of a leader. Leadership qualities can not be learnt from a book; for example, ‘courage’ cannot be learnt from anywhere except perhaps from worthy role models. Secondly, no leader can be an allrounder or ideal in all aspects. There are some good qualities that every person has in some measure, such as sense of humour, endurance, cheerfulness, dedication, enthusiasm, courage, quick decision, identification of problem, etc. But combinations of a large number of these desirable qualities in a person can make him or her a better leader. Some of the more desirable qualities of leadership in disaster management are briefly discussed below:

1) Personal qualities and self-confidence :


As mentioned above, every person has some leadership qualities. One should identify them and try to develop and upgrade them to the best capability. Self-confidence is an important characteristic of a leader which can be developed by increasing his own professional competence and inter-personal abilities.

2) Professional competence :

This competence means knowing what to do and how to do it. This can be developed by acquiring a high standard of knowledge, skill and ability appropriate to the task and circumstances. Higher the professional competence, more is the respect and trust that the leader would receive.

3) Sound judgement and appropriate decision making:

There are very much related to the professional competence and experience of a person. A leader with these two qualities will emerge successful with his team of co-workers in any disaster situation.

4) Ability to communicate :

Clear and concise communication with people working with the leader is very much essential for proper functioning. In fact, this is an essential ingredient in developing good interpersonal relations that generate goodwill and loyalty to the leader leading to a high level of discipline in the team.

5) Appropriate style of leadership:


Always different tasks require different styles of leadership. It is important for a successful leader to understand the dimensions and requirements of the given task and adjust the leadership style to achieve the desired results.

1. Tells : The leader orders the team and waits for results and action while keeping an eye on the progress. He does not expect his subordinates to ask questions or give suggestions. This style is adopted when the matter is urgent and there is no time to lose.

2. Sells : Convinces! the team about the decision taken by analyzing the positive and negative points. It is like selling ideas to the team members. Obviously, this exercise takes some time.

3. Consults : Leader consults the team and allows them to participate in the decision making with the view to making small adjustments but the main thrust of the decisions of the leader are more or less final. This style is somewhat less time consuming than the “Sells” style.


4. Joins : The leader discusses thoroughly the problem and the likely course of action. Every member of the team is involved in the discussion and finally the consensus decision prevails. This style consumes most time but later work is smooth.

Sometimes a multi-style or mixed-style approach is more useful in disaster situation. There are various different tasks such as distribution of food, medicines, temporary shelter, and rescue work. If each of such tasks is assigned to a different person instead of all tasks to one, there can be better results. In other words, delegation of authority and work is also an important aspect of leadership style. Of course, the leader has to continue to monitor and coordinate with his colleagues.

Another useful factor in the development of disaster management is the strong and positive link between leadership and training. A high standard of training can upgrade the professionalism in the leadership. This is the reason that the Government of India (through its nodal ministries and departments) and the various institutes of public administration (through their faculties of disaster management are giving more emphasis on ‘Human Resource Development’ in the area of disaster management. They want to provide training to various levels of government officers, NGOs and to the community leaders so that they have more knowledge, skill and confidence to tackle the likely disaster situations.


Coordination can be defined as combined efforts of various related organizations and agencies to achieve the goal/target of a task and is therefore very essential. In fact, there is always scope for improvement in coordination between various agencies/organisations working for relief and rehabilitation. There are three main bodies involved is disaster management.


In Disaster Management, all the concerned organizations, agencies, and the public have common goals as discussed below. Pre-Disaster Situation- for disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness to minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters. Disaster Situation- to provide effective relief, rehabilitation of affected people and recovery of the community. There are no set principles or rigid techniques for coordination in disaster situation because each disaster situation is unique in its own way. But, coordination is more effective if we follow the basic principles of coordination given below:

1) Clear Role Allocation :


There should be clarity in roles of different participant organizations. They should know their authority and limitations. There should not be duplication of roles.

2) Networking :

All concerned organizations should have proper networking. This will provide them better understanding of strengths and weaknesses of each other and will also ensure proper coordination of efforts besides avoiding duplication.

A proper networking of NGOs will give them the idea about the capacity and capabilities of each other. This knowledge is very essential for coordination among NGOs.

3) Practicing coordination during exercises.

4) Knowledge of professional competence of individual organization

5) Knowledge of available resources including financial resources

6) Transparency in the action of various organizations involved in management.


A good leader or coordinator can make the task simple and more effective. He can serve the affected people within limited resources and be cost-effective. Role of a leader starts from pre-disaster situation. He has a very important role during and after the disaster. Roles of leader/coordinator are almost same and are given below:

Identification of safe places or protected areas, when disaster impact occurs. He should be able to convince the community that they should reach these safer places at the time of pre-warning. Normally, people do not want to leave their houses and belongings even after several warning and even police intervention. But a good leader can persuade them to move to safe places. In cyclones and floods, such evacuation of people can save a lots of human lives and catties.

Leaders take decision concerning post-impact priorities for rescue, temporary evacuation, shelter, immediate needs of the community crucial to the lines and livelihood of the affected people. Leaders implement self-help measures and induce spirit of cooperation. They take decisions to organize external assistance which can significantly defer or alleviate potential hardship for those who have lost their home and means of livelihood. Involving people and community in the decision making, implementation of plans and their participation at every step of relief or rehabilitation process by keeping complete transparency.