From the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Leadership Rounds:

Leadership in Times of Crisis

“In time of crisis people want to know that you care, more than they care what you know.” – Will Rogers

Performance in times of stress or threatening events can be a defining moment in the life of a physician leader. Regardless of how well a leader may have done in the day-to-day guidance of a clinic or a cause or a team, the action and reaction during a time of crisis has substantially more perceptual impact among teams, customers and patients. Here are a few tips to help focus crisis leadership:

  • Control Your Emotions – A time of crisis puts your team and your patient’s emotions on edge. Panic triggers can be activated almost instantly. One of the most important attributes for the physician is to stand strong as the voice of reasoned response. Elevated emotions in discussions or actions can enflame the burning embers of fear among the team and the customers.
  • Bring Fact-based Reasoning to the Conversation – Teams and patients want to rely on a credible source of facts. In the case of health-related crises, the physician is seen as a trusted source of information. Physician leaders are actually trained in the art and science of evidence-based diagnosis and treatment. The application of this evidence-based training goes a long way in a crisis to bringing balance to the moment.
  • Honesty and Transparency – One of the worst responses in a crisis is to offer incomplete, misleading or deflecting information. Teams and patients can almost always discern the difference between incomplete truths versus inconvenient truths. Honesty and transparency coupled with reliable information is always the best method for helping people feel adequately prepared to face the crisis.
  • A Plan – A crisis always demands a response. Teams and patients are looking to authoritative sources to provide a plan. People individually create their own personal plans. But, they long for a collective and coordinated response guided by a strong leader who embodies the attributes of emotional control, facts, honest and transparency.
  • Empathy and Authenticity – Most leaders naturally have a wellspring of empathy. For physician leaders, a genuine caring for people and the wellbeing is typically a motivating factor in the choice to pursue medicine. More than anything in a crisis, people want to know that the leader is with them, engaged, and truly cares about who they are and what they are going through. A leader who conveys empathy and caring is more than halfway there when it comes to managing a crisis.
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