Bridging Leadership Gaps in Healthcare
If you are a healthcare professional, you are likely aware of how quickly the industry changes. It’s obvious that the ability to adapt as individuals and organizations as a whole is important. What’s less obvious are the leadership skills required to ensure smooth transitions into unknown environments or situations.
Technology advances, new care standards, and the growing population have all initiated change in the healthcare world. Regulation, care access, cost, legal, and ethical considerations all add to the complexity. It can be difficult for organizations to know if their leadership can handle the changes and lead the way for employees, partners, and stakeholders alike.
Leadership gaps, or the disparities between leadership priorities and skills, provide valuable information to an organization. With this understanding, healthcare companies can create meaningful development strategies, take steps to build the competence of people in key roles, and begin to grow the leadership capacity of the organization.
Let’s start by identifying some of the most common leadership “gaps” or derailment factors. Decades of research show five characteristics that can stall or end a management career:
- Problems with interpersonal relationships: Difficulties in developing good working relationships with others.
- Difficulty building and leading a team: Difficulties in selecting and building a team.
- Difficulty changing or adapting: Resistant to change, learning from mistakes and developing.
- Failure to meet business objectives: Difficulties in following up on promises and completing a job.
- Narrow functional orientation: Lacks depth to manage outside of one’s current function.
Healthcare organizations who are willing to put the effort into their leaders should align organizational needs with leader development. In order to close the gap in the areas identified above, a strong understanding of the skills and behaviors required is important.
Six areas healthcare leaders and organizations should focus on:
1. Leading employees.
The ability to lead employees is a skill requiring strong self-awareness. Successful motivators will invest in others and push decisions on others who are capable, leading to the development of confidence in their ability to take action. They coach employees while providing challenge and opportunity, in turn attracting the most talented candidates.
2. Encouraging participation.
Managers who value their role as leader encourage others to share ideas, information, opinions, and perspectives—and actually listen to them. They communicate well, involve others, and pay attention to multiple perspectives.
3. Building and maintaining relationships.
Managers who establish strong relationships are able to relate well to others and easily gain the trust of peers, higher management, and customers. They complete tasks and projects through collaboration and finding common ground. Before making judgments or decisions, they try to understand where others are coming from.
Solid leaders not only know what their strengths are, but can also list their weaknesses and the impact they have on others. A self-aware leader wants to hear feedback from employees and values learning opportunities. They will take ownership of mistakes, work to correct the situation, and learn for next time.
5. Broadening organizational perspective.
When a manager’s area of expertise is too narrow, they are limited in level of responsibility and movement across departments or functions. This inhibits them from passing valuable knowledge to their team regarding other areas of the organization. Leaders with broad organizational perspectives have seen many facets of the company and have no problem being collaborative with different groups.
6. Building and leading a team.
An important part of a successful team is a set of clearly defined goals and expectations communicated by the leader(s). This way, employees know what they need to do to be an effective team player and how their hard work fits into the goals of the organization. They select the right mix of people, all with the expertise, knowledge and skills to complete projects.
Not all healthcare companies can afford the resources needed for generalized leadership development, yet they know the importance of it. If you could use some help, don’t push this topic to the backburner. Continue to educate yourself and your team on all the ways you can implement innovative solutions to complex challenges related to leadership and operations.