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What Leaders Do in a Crisis

Leadership skills are valuable to any organization. Here are some of the top skills leaders should practice during a crisis.

Crises come up for everyone and in different shapes and forms. If you’re a manager in any industry, you’re likely to be in charge during a crisis at some point during your career whether it be an equipment breakdown, natural disaster or an interpersonal struggle.

Whether you’re in a management position in the healthcare industry or business field, leadership skills are valuable to have. Here are some of the top skills leaders should practice during a crisis.


When a crisis hits, the first step for a leader is to evaluate the situation. Some things to consider include who is involved,  what the prognosis is, who is affected and what the next steps need to be to deal with the problem. A leader not only needs to consider what the short term effects will be but also what is at risk long-term.

If the evaluation of the situation isn’t done well, the rest of the steps taken to solve the problem won’t be effective.


In a disaster, managers need to communicate in a timely and clear manner to make sure employees and other stakeholders understand what happened and what they need to do in reaction to the problem. Giving employees confusing information during an already stressful time can worsen circumstances, so make sure everything you’re sharing is accurate and concise.

Additionally, keep an open channel of communication. The best leaders listen to the concerns of their team and clients as a way to effectively support them during a crisis. Key audiences, including stakeholders, employees and customers, should be kept informed and understand the effect of the crisis and what leaders are doing to address the situation.

Be Transparent

Transparent communication is the best way to maintain the trust and loyalty of not only customers and stakeholders, but also of employees. One common mistake leaders make is to wait too long for new information before communicating important guidance. This practice can cause more harm than good. People might start coming up with their own conclusions and news could break out before you’re able to share the information yourself, or someone could try and fix a problem without having all the correct information on hand.

When relaying information with your audiences, tell them what you do know and what you don’t know. Even if you don’t have the answers, explain what you and other leaders in the company are doing to get them.


During a crisis, leaders need to stay flexible. Though you may have a strategy in place, circumstances can quickly change and force you to shift toward new ideas. Adaptability helps leaders avoid the stress of situations not going as planned and enables them to find a better solution rather than trying to force one.

Some ways to improve your adaptability include:

  • Take a step back and re-evaluate priorities
  • Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them
  • Think about how you can make things work rather than giving up
  • Practice active listening
  • Seek input from everyone involved in the situation

Be Decisive

To effectively manage a crisis, leaders should be understanding but assertive when communicating. You should also provide your team with clear direction while encouraging positivity and teamwork during a stressful time. Having the right attitude motivates employees to come together and solve the issue rather than panicking.

Remain Calm

Nothing causes more panic than someone in a leadership role spiraling out of control during a crisis. Though crises can be stressful, you must remain calm when addressing the issue. Showing signs of panic can lead to a lack of trust and uncertainty among employees and clients.

For example, let’s say your healthcare facility experienced a technological breakdown and the CEO reacted by getting into extended arguments with employees. Do you think your team would feel confident in his or her ability to solve the problem and lead the team?

By demonstrating self-control, leaders can be rational with their decision making and work more effectively to find a solution rather than frantically trying to fix the problem.

If you find yourself stressed while managing a crisis, try the following strategies:

  • Take a step back and assess the situation
  • Find the pieces you can control
  • Stay organized
  • Understand that you will make mistakes and learn from them
  • Collaborate with a team rather than creating a solution all on your own

Interested in strengthening your leadership skills? Check out Herzing University’s master’s degree programs!

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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