Two Leadership Lessons from Hurricane Irma (Decision Making)

Destroyed tree after Hurricane Irma
Destroyed tree after Hurricane Irma

Here are two leadership lessons from Hurricane Irma that I learned while managing my family through the storm.

  1. Act decisively and quickly
  2. Stand sure and confidently

Sunday, September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma roared through South Florida after decimating parts of the Florida Keys and Caribbean islands.

radar hurricane irma over florida
Radar of Hurricane Irma as I tracked it on my cell phone Sunday, September 10, 2017.

The storm caused catastrophic damage in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane. As of September 15, the hurricane has caused at least 82 deaths, including 43 in the Caribbean and 39 in the United States.

Act Decisively and Quickly

When officials made the announcement that South Florida was definitely in the cone, I let my family know we would hunker down for the storm.

My life partner is a transplant from New York. She hasn't lived in Florida a very long time. Hurricane Irma was her first major hurricane.

As a Florida native, I knew provisions would become scarce fast. The night we went to buy non-perishable foodstuff, flashlights, batteries, bottled water and more, the stores in our local community were sold out of the things we needed.

We drove two counties away to buy provisions.

“We need to have enough non-perishable food for everyone in our home (six people) to last at least a full week because we can expect to be without power for at least a week”, I explained.

With such quick decisions, you have to be confident about your course of action.

Stand Sure and Confidently

A family member came to stay with us to ride out Hurricane Irma. She too had never dealt with a hurricane before. She was frightened, seeing some of the early reports from the Caribbean Islands as Hurricane Irma drew closer.

By the Thursday prior to Hurricane Irma, one family member cried she was so scared. Repeatedly asking me “what are we going to do?”, “where are we going to go?”.

As the leader of our family, I had to reassure everyone. Letting them know to be confident in our decision. Explaining, that if I did not think our shuttered-home was safe, we would have gone to an evacuation center.

This fear was partly fueled by family members that lived elsewhere calling repeatedly asking if our house was going to be under water because of the news coverage they were watching (but, we live inland and not on the coast).

Repeatedly, I had the conversation with the family telling them to ignore what other family and friends that did not live in Florida were saying. I even admonished them to stop binge-watching the news, it can skew your perspective if you are not careful. I repeated again, “we are going to be just fine”.


Think about the team members at your organization that you manage. When big changes are in the air, sometimes you have to act decisively and quickly to keep a project from derailing or to get stay ahead of your competition in a unique way.

Then, there may be times that because of your experience team members may feel less confident about a course of action than you do. As a leader, it is your responsibility to move them along. Talk things out with them to quell their spirits and eventually get their buy-in with the decision. If you waver in your resolve with the course of action decided, your team may come undone.

Take these two leadership lessons from Hurricane Irma to heart.

If you would like to donate to the hurricane relief efforts of the Red Cross, click here.

Godspeed to those recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

Our prayers are with you.

Thomas Harrell’s tagline for the learning function at Master Electronics is “Helping you. Learn. Grow. Master!” His responsibilities include learning content design, creation, delivery, LMS administration, and learning & development strategy, as Talent Development Specialist reporting to the company President. He loves making relevant professional connections, you can find him on LinkedIn.