Crisis Leadership

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For many years to come, we will all look back at the first half of 2020 and recall the challenges we faced. The electronic records system was down for weeks so medical professionals couldn't access patient records, and the world faced a pandemic and the financial fallout associated with it. We all certainly have been tested—not the regular tests we are familiar with, but the rare testing that decides if we will survive a genuine crisis.


Leadership is perhaps the most important thing needed in a crisis. A competent leader provides direction to the team that instills confidence and assures them that whatever challenges arise will be handled effectively and promptly.


Crisis leadership is not leading by emotion. It is vital to keep calm and lead with confidence and certainty. When a crisis hits, it affects everyone differently. The following crisis management and crisis leadership skills can help businesses find the way out of a challenging and unexpected situation.



  • Communicate honestly and frequently. Doing so can have an enormous positive effect. During any type of crisis, answering questions honestly will show the management staff's credibility.
  • Manage expectations. Don't alarm people but be honest about what the expectations are.




  • Be transparent with employees and patients about the situation the company faces. You do not want them to learn about the crisis or how you are handling the crisis through the grapevine. Firsthand information eliminates less accurate or ambiguous
    second-hand information.



  • Be decisive. Employees, patients, and referral sources are looking for effective leadership during difficult times. Decisions must be made with confidence and clarity and should be communicated quickly.



  • Decide what actions need to be taken first. Priorities must be based on risk versus reward, not emotion.



  • Remain positive. Positivity is contagious just like fear is contagious. Leaders need to lead with a positive outlook.


I will use my own experience as an example. During the COVID-19 crisis, I and the senior management team decided to set up our two locations and 43 employees as a fully remote working environment.


On day one we called a company-wide meeting, explained our plan, and answered everyone's questions. We weighed the risk and reward and made this our priority.


On day two we updated our servers and firewalls and purchased a voice over IP phone system. All employees were sent home with their computers, computer desks, extra monitors, scanners, and printers, and even some office chairs.


On day three we executed our plan and did troubleshooting on anything that popped up.


We didn't have a contingency plan in place that covered a pandemic and called for shelter at home. However, it was through the delivery of effective crisis management that we were able to create and execute a plan in just three days. Like so many other effective crisis leaders, we were decisive, we communicated with transparency, we prioritized our actions, and we remained positive. It is also important to remember that it is not only how we lead the day-to-day events during the crisis that earns us credibility, it's also how we recovered, moved on, and prevailed.


A crisis is never expected, and, as we learned, we can't have a contingency plan for everything. One tool we can have is strong leadership and effective crisis management; these will give you and your business the ability to handle just about anything thrown your way.


Author's note: This article was written in mid-March.


Erin Cammarata is president and owner of CBS Medical Billing and Consulting. She can be
contacted at