The CIO’s crisis management playbook: 8 lessons in leadership

The coronavirus pandemic has been a litmus test of leadership under pressure. CIOs from the healthcare industry and beyond share tips for leading through crisis.

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The focus then became supporting employees and maintaining business continuity with technology that is not just easy for end users, but also secure and powerful and complies with regulatory requirements, Cosson says. “In just a few days, we were up and running remotely, and to date, our team has received extremely positive feedback on how the remote setup is working.”

Embrace the adrenalin rush

For some CIOs, leading in a crisis is an opportunity to rise to the occasion. “I kind of enjoy being in crisis mode,’’ says Rosendin’s Lamb. “It’s taxing … but there’s a thrill and the rush. You get to put a lot of your skills to use and there’s something at stake you’re going for.”

He views the pandemic as a chance for IT to shine. “In order for us to be successful working from home, it’s IT’s responsibility and I want to do my part to keep things going,” he says.

There’s also the sense that there will be comfort in being calm. “The most important thing people have looked to is calmness in leadership,’’ says IDB’s Smithers. “These are trying times for many people and the situation has worsened, so it’s important to remain calm and assemble facts and try to pull together a plan … and being okay changing plans.”

Echoing Ochsner’s Wilt, Smithers says he’s learned that people like constant interactions and being able to see him and read his body language, so he’s doing more video calls than normal. People take strength from seeing their leaders be calm and measured, Smithers adds.

Those constant connections have helped assure people that “together as a group, we’ll be that much stronger,’’ Smithers says.

His biggest challenge has been more about finding the right work/life balance. “I have two kids under five and a Labrador,” so they don’t necessarily understand boundaries, he notes. “My daughter has made a few guest appearances on video.’’  

Thrills aside, Lamb has also taken away something more personal from this experience: “getting out of denial when you see [the virus] happening around the world, and it gets closer and closer’’ to home, he says. “I probably needed to be a week ahead of where I was when it all came down.”

And Lamb is coping just fine as a new CIO thrown into the fire. “I’ve been in IT a long time and have had management positions, and the CIO I’m following taught me a lot … and prepared me in a lot of ways for this. There’s a high-stakes game now and I fell in and I haven’t really been too fazed by it,” he says. Except, he adds, “I’ve been tired.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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