The healthcare field has always been complex, with an ever-evolving host of challenges and opportunities dynamically shifting the industry on a constant basis.. Without effective leadership, it will be impossible to meet the evolving needs of patients while also supporting hardworking medical staff.
A new generation of healthcare leaders is ready to rise to the challenges of tomorrow. However, first, these professionals need to develop a variety of leadership skills. To illustrate the scope of these qualities, we’ve identified several core components of healthcare leadership development. Keep reading to learn what exactly qualifies as effective leadership.
Empathy is non-negotiable in the healthcare industry. Its value is obvious in clinical settings, but those who handle administrative and managerial functions must also demonstrate compassion. This is true not only in healthcare, but across all industries.
A Catalyst study on the power of empathy reveals that this quality plays heavily into everything from innovation to employee engagement. In general, workplaces in which employees refer to their leaders as empathetic are more likely to see positive outcomes in terms of productivity and profitability.
In a leadership capacity, empathy is crucial because it helps healthcare leaders anticipate how professionals, patients, insurance representatives, and other key players will react in any given situation. This is especially important, given the unfortunate reality that many of the people healthcare leaders interact with on a regular basis face extraordinary struggles.
2. SOLID DECISION-MAKING
Effective decision-making is a core competency of any leadership role, but it takes on a new level of complexity in the healthcare industry. The most effective leaders can obtain and analyze data from numerous sources, which they then use to make difficult decisions. These choices will ideally be backed by research, employee input, and the leader’s own knowledge and experience.
These days, solid decision-making goes far beyond a base-level examination of available data. How that data is interpreted matters as much as what it reveals. Healthcare leaders can address the potential for differing (and possibly incorrect) interpretations by implementing advanced statistical techniques, while also maintaining a clear focus on the future, as reflected in forecasting efforts.
Healthcare leaders are responsible for managing vast teams of professionals. Effective delegation ensures that key responsibilities are distributed fairly and according to various workers’ skills and passions.
When important tasks or projects are properly delegated, improvements in efficiency and quality of care are sure to follow. What’s more, strong delegation helps all types of employees become more confident in a wide range of skills. Done poorly, delegation can lead to workplace conflict and associated losses in productivity.
Every healthcare professional — no matter how skilled — can always improve. Without constant reflection, however, leaders may never realize where their weaknesses may lie or how they can be addressed. By emphasizing self-awareness, leaders can identify areas for improvement and make a concerted effort to grow, both personally and professionally.
This should be a daily endeavor, with reflection built into every leader’s routine. Leaders should also be willing to accept feedback from a wide variety of team members.
5. UNDERSTANDING OF TECHNOLOGY
Advanced tech plays an increasingly vital role in every aspect of the healthcare field. Artificial intelligence and machine learning represent particularly huge areas of opportunity. Those who embrace these developments can deliver impressive results, including a level of innovation and efficiency that seemed all but impossible just a few short years ago.
For example, the 2020 Leadership Survey Report from AI in Healthcare reveals that artificial intelligence is already being used to gain new insights from EMR and facilitate prompt payments. As the FDA promises, “AI and machine learning technologies have the potential to transform healthcare by deriving new and important insights from the vast amount of data generated during the delivery of healthcare every day.”
The most effective healthcare leaders will not shy away from new tech developments, but rather determine where relevant opportunities exist and how they can be implemented. Unfortunately, this is an area in which progress is clearly needed, as the aforementioned Leadership Survey Report suggests that a “lack of leaders’ ownership and commitment” to new technology remains a barrier.
6. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
We’ve already discussed empathy, but this is just one component of emotional intelligence. This set of skills enables healthcare professionals to read and interpret various social cues. These range from tone of voice to body language. The context of the situation at hand may also play heavily into the meaning behind conversations or digital interactions.
Emotional intelligence allows healthcare professionals to determine the meaning behind seemingly straightforward interactions. As leaders develop this essential quality, most will quickly find it easier to figure out what drives the vast array of professionals with whom they work — and which leadership style each individual will find most compelling.
7. POWERFUL COMMUNICATION
Exceptional emotional intelligence means little when it’s difficult to communicate effectively with team members. In order to delegate appropriately, healthcare leaders must clearly convey what they want. This means clearly identifying the scope of the task or project in question as well as key deliverables. Additionally, effective communication is essential for inspiring employees and providing targeted feedback.
Strong communication spans many types of interaction, ranging from written to verbal and even body language. The type of communication also matters; the preferred approach will vary based on whether the purpose of the interaction is to establish expectations, engage employees, or provide recognition for work well done.
The concept of rounding also comes into play; while clinical employees think of this as assessing patient status, a similar need is evident in other areas of the healthcare sector. In all departments, the best leaders rely on rounding to highlight areas for improvement. Rounding refers to the regular practice of visiting patients at their bedside to assess their condition, discuss their treatment plans, and ensure the smooth coordination of care.
8. RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT
As we’ve mentioned, healthcare leaders interact closely with many types of professionals. They function best when they develop strong working relationships with all types of employees. This may occur over a matter of months or years, with leaders cultivating trust and rapport as they demonstrate respect for their cohorts.
From entry-level workers to C-suite executives, valuable perspectives can be found in every corner of the healthcare world. Likewise, it’s important to develop strong relationships with professionals from many departments and niches. Clinical employees, HR representatives, and administrators, for example, must all interact closely to ensure cohesive and streamlined processes.
Again, the concept of rounding is vital. Leaders should plan to regularly check in with each team member to ensure everybody feels heard and respected.
The medical field is changing at breakneck speed. While we’ve outlined some of the latest technological developments above — along with the need for leaders to keep up with these changes — there’s more to the industry’s evolution than tech alone.
Regulatory changes, for example, are a common source of concern, with organizations needing to adapt quickly to remain in compliance as the scope of government oversight evolves. Other adaptations include changes related to the insurance industry and promptly addressing patient demands.
In this rapidly changing environment, agile leadership is essential. Experts at McKinsey highlight the need for organizational agility in which businesses can rapidly adapt to meet the sudden changes wrought by the concerns identified above. As the McKinsey report explains, “both stability and dynamism are needed to excel,” so the most agile organizations possess a “stable foundation of core processes” along with the willingness to change when needed.
At the individual level, this involves not only a willingness to promptly shift strategies, but also the ability to anticipate upcoming developments and respond proactively. Healthcare leaders must always have their finger on the pulse of the industry at large, so they know exactly which adjustments will be needed to remain competitive.
Ethics have always been one of the core competencies in the healthcare sector, but they’re even more important — and even more confusing — in this modern era. It is the healthcare leader’s responsibility to cultivate an environment in which ethics remain at the forefront. This means consistently adhering to clearly identified organizational values while also promoting ethical practices among employees at all levels.
A good leader will function as an ethical role model. Ethical committees and ethics training should be heavily utilized with organizational values promoted in everyday interactions whenever possible.
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