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After Chile’s quake, a leader emerges

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Almost immediately upon becoming Chile’s health minister in 2010, Jaime Jose Manalich hit a crisis. Because a massive earthquake had destroyed many hospitals around the country, Manalich raced to restore health care for Chile’s far-flung citizens.

Through his leadership, Manalich, 60, rebuilt Chile’s health delivery system under challenging conditions. The former physician made many wise decisions under duress:

Show flexibility. Manalich joined the administration of the newly elected president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, who promised a conservative administration devoted to smaller government. But after Chile’s devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake, government needed to step in and Manalich adjusted his views to embrace a more forceful government role.

Stay close to the crisis. Manalich could have chosen to base himself in a plush high-rise office in Santiago. Instead, he spent a month living in Chile’s most decimated areas using a mobile van as his office.

Improvise to fix big problems. As winter approached, Manalich realized he couldn’t wait for crews to rebuild dozens of hospitals. (Chileans typically suffer widespread respiratory infections in the coldest months.)

To speed reconstruction, he ordered prefabricated materials and airlifted emergency supplies to temporary field hospital units. Within a year, he restored 28,000 hospital beds that had existed before the earthquake.

— Adapted from Leadership Dispatches, Michael Useem, Howard Kunreuther and Erwann Michel-Kerjan, Stanford Business Books.

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