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Leadership Growth During Times of Crisis

Due to the many career paths available to those in the healthcare profession, it is not uncommon for emerging leaders to develop long-term plans to help them reach their goals. However, as the old adage goes, even the best laid plans can go awry. This has become particularly apparent in recent weeks in light of COVID-19 pandemic.

Jamie Haeuser knows all too well how times of crisis can disrupt both the healthcare system and the plans of those within it. With over 30 years of healthcare leadership experience, including time as a master faculty member at the Ochsner Learning Institute and senior vice president of operations at Woman’s Hospital, she has a wealth of knowledge on how emerging healthcare leaders can adapt and grow during times of crisis.

Drawing upon her own experiences from working through Hurricane Katrina, Haeuser recognizes parallels forming between that incident and what we are seeing with COVID-19 today. To guide emerging leaders through these unprecedented events, she has offered up the following advice.

Trust and responsibility

According to Haeuser, “Everything you are able to do during a crisis is going to happen because of the relationships you’ve taken the time to build in the past.” The trust and responsibility built through daily collaboration and communication during normal hospital operations are vital to a team’s ability to successfully function during times of crisis. Without an established foundation of trust and responsibility, it can be challenging to strengthen these values when troubling times arise.

Support your workforce

Support is an essential element to the success of a hospital system or team during both peaceful and trying times. However, according to Haeuser, during a crisis this support goes beyond conventional ideas. “People need to realize that you can’t own spaces or processes (during a crisis). This is a time where people can’t say, ‘Wait, that’s mine.’ This is where everything belongs to everybody.”

In addition to focusing on supporting individuals, an emerging leader must consider how to best support the organization. This may mean shifting responsibilities and roles, but rather than resisting, enthusiastically go where your skill set is most needed.

Step up and be heard

While age and inexperience may seem like insurmountable hurdles for emerging healthcare leaders during times of crisis, Haeuser believes they can overcome these issues by quickly positioning themselves at the front of a crisis. By demonstrating a willingness to actively participate and develop new skills, they are showing their organization their leadership potential.

Be accountable

In both times of crisis and normalcy, an emerging healthcare leader must demonstrate a high level of accountability. If your team cannot rely on you to follow through with your actions, then you’ll lose their trust and respect. By speaking with conviction about the higher meaning of your work and exemplifying those beliefs through your actions, Haeuser believes you can create a shared vision with your team that inspires high levels of accountability across the board.

Fill the void

“At the end of the day,” Haeuser asks, “what do you want people to remember you for during that crisis?” Do you want to be the person who stands up to take on new responsibilities and volunteers for helpful tasks outside of your job description? Or do you want to be someone remembered for complaints and resistance? In times of crisis, a true leader recognizes that any task that helps a team or organization move forward, no matter how small, is worth doing.  

Haeuser herself is a prime example of this leadership characteristic. While not on the frontlines of this pandemic, she is contributing to the efforts of the healthcare community by producing masks. After conducting her own research on materials and patterns, she created a Facebook group, now with over 100 members, to share advice on how to produce and distribute these vital pieces of equipment

“You can always find a way to contribute,” she says, “whether your name is on an org. chart or not.”


Jamie Haeuser is principal, Haeuser Health Strategies, LLC, and serves as ACHE faculty. For more resources to support you during these unprecedented events, visit ache.org/COVID.

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