HAP Blog

Ideal Leadership during the Emergency Management Preparedness Phase

September 01, 2020

In my line of work, it’s not unusual to face a crisis—either during training or responding to one in real time. Experiences in public safety, safety consulting, and emergency management (EM) have taught us that, during an emergency—when seconds can make all the difference—effective leadership can make or break a team. I’ve worked with some great leaders during my tenure, and many of the best ones have adopted a transformational style of leadership. Their examples are the ones that I have used most often as I strive to be an effective leader in my own work in the EM community.

Before we delve into leadership during a crisis, it’s helpful to know that there are four major phases in any emergency response: 

  • Preparedness
  • Response
  • Recovery
  • Mitigation

The preparedness phase is a “continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response." This cycle is one element of a broader National Preparedness System to prevent, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other disasters.

While I will focus on the preparedness phase of EM, many of the characteristics of a transformational leader are essential during any of the four phases.

So what exactly is transformational leadership?

Transformational leadership is a style in which leaders encourage, inspire, and motivate employees to innovate and create change that will help grow and shape the future success of the company. The leaders that follow a transformational style motivate their staff by not micromanaging and giving the staff more of an authority of their own work. 

Transformational leaders are forward-thinking and flexible.

This is someone who knows the community and its hazards and vulnerabilities. They must be a forward thinker who can anticipate what could occur and then be able to create plans that prepare their facility for any potential impacts. They need to be focused and goal-driven to establish the exercises and trainings around identified hazards. And, they must be flexible enough to make changes to the plans when areas for improvement are identified in either preplanned events or real life disasters that the facility is preparing for.

Transformational leaders know communication is key.

An individual who adopts transformational leadership also must be a good communicator and motivator with staff. The HAP EM Team is composed of four emergency managers, organized under a vice president. Our managers reside throughout the commonwealth to better serve our members in a time of need. Due to the vast area of the commonwealth, and this historic pandemic, the HAP EM Team can’t meet face to face on a frequent basis. Every Monday morning, the team gets together on a video conference call to discuss objectives and weekly plans for the week’s projects.

Transformational leaders empower others.

Preparing for a crisis in a health care setting requires a leader to maintain calm, have a positive outlook, and have deep trust in the team they have assembled. Once an emergency response plan is activated, and the best leaders are confident that everyone on the team will perform their role as planned.

HAP’s emergency managers have used transformational leadership to give more authority and autonomy to themselves and the health care coalitions they serve. It also builds on the notion of the common good for HAP member hospitals and health systems, and health care community at large. As a result, HAP’s EM team—and the facilities it serves—benefit from transformational leadership.

Who can use this style of leadership?

Of course, there are many teams that thrive working for different types of leaders, but I have found that the best leaders are ones who nurture growth and avoid micromanaging and one-size-fits-all thinking.

In my experience, the kind of person who can benefit from transformational leadership is not just someone appointed as an EM coordinator or director for a facility, but someone who has:

  • A clear understanding of how to effectively manage a crisis from a health care standpoint
  • An in-depth knowledge of policies and procedures, accreditation requirements, and the specific needs of the populations that the facility serves
  • A stake in the program and trusts the staff working for them to complete the job at hand

During a crisis, nobody wants to risk losing valuable time—or staff turnover—as a result of leadership that doesn’t empower everyone to play their part in the emergency plans you have created and trained with. The most important thing is to make sure that your team has the type of leader that helps everyone do their part to effectively manage the crisis at hand—and prepare for the next one.

For more information or to discuss ways your organization might benefit from the application of transformational leadership to your emergency management efforts, please contact HAPevolve President, Joe Tibbs. HAPevolve regularly provides support to organizations looking to improve capacity in both preparedness and response.


Jason’s background includes 12 years in the Criminal Justice field with experience in Emergency Medical Services and firefighting. For the past 15 years, Jason has worked in hospital and health care settings supporting health care emergency preparedness, health care coalitions, law enforcement, and safety.



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