Home / Management/ Lessons from the cave for CEO Communicators

Lessons from the cave for CEO Communicators

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 7 August 2018 00:00



By Yukthi Gunasekera 

There were two CEOs involved in the recent Thai Cave Rescue: The football coach Ekkapol Chantawong (Ake) and the head of the rescue mission Narongsak Osotanakorn (Oso). There are important lessons in CEO Communication – especially when it comes to crisis communication – that we can learn from the communications of these two leaders. 

How CEOs handle communication 

in a crisis 

First, the football 

coach – Ake 

There are three important steps that leaders must take to handle communication effectively in a crisis: Keep your cool, go to your values, and be on message. 

Keep your cool

 Ake kept his cool. He did not lose his head. He knew that he was responsible for the safety of the 12 young boys of the Wild Boars football club. 

Go to your values

 Ake went to his Buddhist roots and chose equanimity. He knew how to get the team members to be equanimous: Meditation.

Ake also knew that the boys had to survive without food, so he not only let them have all the food they had – he also figured that he must teach them how to drink water dripping from the stalactite formations in the cave. 

Be on message

 Accordingly, Ake communicated to the boys to be calm, and showed them how to meditate. This had another life-saving benefit: By staying still, the boys saved energy. Since they did not know how long they would have to wait without food (13 days), it was critical that they conserved energy by restricting their body movements.

Ake also showed the boys how to drink water that dripped from the stalactite formations – thus saving their lives.

Furthermore, he reassured the boys that help will come. This is another CEO Communication best practice. Good leaders are dealers in optimism and hope. Any leader can be optimistic when the going is good; however, the test of real leaders is their ability to inspire their troops when the going gets tough. 

Second, the head 

of the rescue 

mission – Oso

 Like Ake, Oso too displayed prowess in his CEO Communication.

First, he kept his cool – in spite of intense pressure from literally the entire world. Without keeping your cool, there cannot be effective communication. 

Second, Oso thought three steps ahead. High in emotional intelligence, Oso realised that his communications would have real impact on the ground. Therefore, he did not communicate as to who was being rescued first from the cave. This was to ensure that there was no panic, or unwanted ‘incidents’ caused by the parents of the 12 boys at the mouth of the cave – this would have impeded rescue efforts. This way, Oso also displayed his grasp of a central tenet in crisis communication: Reveal as much information as possible – not all information.

Third, communication must be strategic. Oso hinted to the media that the rescue mission might take weeks or months. This helped to deflect the media glare from the rescue mission for a while. In this window of opportunity, Oso and his rescue team dived into the caves and fished out all 13 with great speed, albeit on a staggered basis.

Thus, a possibly calamitous event not only had a happy ending – it provided us with many lessons, including some useful lessons on effective CEO Communication.

The writer is the Managing Director of YKG Associates Ltd., and can be reached via email yukthigunasekera@gmail.com.

Share This Article

Facebook Twitter


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

Come, let us build!

Friday, 26 April 2019

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Best because Sri Lanka was united in what it did well: being at peace, on an extended sabbatical, pursuing the absence of conflict – even mindlessly – and enjoying the fruit of island life. Wor

Black Easter

Friday, 26 April 2019

To Sri Lankan Christians, Easter this year was a day of God where demons reigned. It can be considered an unfortunate day in which the country was plunged again into the uncivilised wretchedness that prevailed in the country during the violent confli

Explaining Sri Lanka’s new Emergency Regulations on ‘publication’

Friday, 26 April 2019

Sri Lanka’s President issued a new set of Emergency Regulations on 22 April. This note explains the contents of Emergency Regulation 15, which concerns the ‘control of publications’, and certain other regulations relevant to publication. There

A secular public space is essential for the safety and wellbeing of all

Friday, 26 April 2019

The heart is heavy and the pen is slow. The environment is thick with the shared sorrow of many. Pain and suffering caused by deaths of hundreds and maiming of more on Easter of 2019 will linger for the rest of our lives. But life must go on and we m

Columnists More