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CIO Unplugged 1/13/11

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Crisis Reveals Leadership

I finished my first week as CIO exhilarated. I slipped out early and headed for a haircut (I had hair back then). The grating buzz of the “emergency broadcast system” disrupted WTAM’s sports update. A power outage that began in the Northeast had hit Ohio. This was not a test.

Out the window, I watched traffic come to a halt. Electricity stopped, rendering signals colorless. I called my family and staff, but cell networks were overwhelmed. I returned to the office.

They say nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. I differ. Crisis is a sure thing. By definition, life is a series of crises, and a showcase of our ability to react. Death, sickness, raising teenage daughters….

Life and career choices determine the number and severity of crises you might experience. But one thing remains true: you will have them. Great leadership will minimize the volume of crisis, but every leader will encounter one. Preparation and execution determines how healthily you emerge.

No course, audit, or survey can tell you as much about your leadership than a crisis. If you want a test that shows what you are made of, crisis will reveal your abilities. Those who aspire for greater responsibility must understand that to whom much is given, much is required. The higher your position — be it family, church, community, or work — the higher the probability that you will be leading in crisis. Be prepared.

I have mishandled some crises and led well through others. In each case, I came to terms with my abilities. Failures and successes totaled, here are things I learned. Master these so they become part of your core leadership abilities.

Take Responsibility Immediately

Do not blame a vendor or an employee. You are the CIO. Crisis happened on your watch. Take responsibility and focus on resolution.



Practical Logistics

Profit from Crisis

Document throughout, and take history of all actions and issues. This is critical in averting future crises. Resist the pressure to return an organization to status quo so you can profit from the crisis. Not seeking opportunities or pursuing the underlying cause of the crisis might leave your organization open for future conflict.

Engage Outside of IT


Ending Well

When the crisis is over, the work begins.

We are all healthcare IT leaders, and my hope is that some might profit from the ideas posted. What ideas and tips do you have that I failed to cover? We will send a “crisis agenda” template to all those who post a new idea.

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.