The Importance of Strong Leadership in Healthcare
The word “leadership” means different things to different people; a good leader in one industry might not necessarily be successful in a different field. In the fast-paced, ever-changing world that is healthcare, strong leadership is critically important, but it’s also sometimes misunderstood.
What makes a strong leader?
Effective leaders need to be able to do three things:
1. Assess any given situation objectively. This requires an understanding of different employees’ roles, the work location itself, procedural requirements, and other situation-specific factors.
2. Evaluate various potential solutions to address problems before landing on what the leader believes will be the best situation, given all of the variables.
3. Execute the solution in a way that is clear and unambiguous. In making decisions and implementing solutions, good leaders know that employees — even those who may have years more experience and seniority — will follow their lead.
Sometimes, there’s not a lot of time between these steps; leaders need to be able to think on their feet. Good leaders are able to feel confident and comfortable making tough decisions in high-pressure situations.
How is the healthcare industry different?
Effective, strong leaders in healthcare organizations know that taking a “do it or suffer the consequences” approach with employees simply isn’t effective. Health care work can be exhausting, and workers are prone to burnout at a much faster pace than people in other industries. Any given week in healthcare can be filled with a seemingly endless string of long, thankless hours.
Good leaders are kind leaders, empathizing with residents and employees. For the most part, people who choose to work in healthcare jobs are there because they want to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Leaders need to remember this as they coach people and give them opportunities to succeed.
Why is it important to empower employees?
Those of us in the healthcare industry tend to be good “do-ers.” That is to say that we thrive on being able to fix things, and on helping people. In stressful situations, people tend to gravitate toward things they’re comfortable doing. In healthcare, that usually means hands-on work.
However, being a good worker does not necessarily mean someone is cut out to be a leader. All too often, dependable workers are promoted into leadership roles in health care and end up falling flat. That’s often because they’re doers, not leaders.
A good leader in the healthcare field is someone who recognizes this tendency and is able to leverage workers’ talents by delegating effectively. Leaders empower their employees to be part of the solution, developing workers’ skills to help them individually, but also to better the organization as a whole.
How can leaders help employees avoid burnout?
One easy, but effective, tool managers can use is ending staff meetings on a positive note. While this may sound simplistic, there’s an innate tendency to want to focus on calling out problems. This isn’t to say that leaders shouldn’t address issues; of course they should. But, they should look for opportunities to identify and recognize positive behavior and actions too.
Managers also need to be able to recognize the challenges their employees face every day. When implementing new policies, for example, good leaders go beyond determining if a policy will accomplish what it’s designed to do, and evaluate whether it can actually be implemented as written. If this step isn’t taken, leaders could be setting employees up to fail, and creating a scenario where workers will be unhappy with their jobs.
A final piece of advice for healthcare leaders looking to grow in their roles and careers: Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Seek to truly understand the challenges and obstacles they face in their jobs, show them you care, and demonstrate that you’re not above doing the work you’re asking them to do.
About the Author
John Hummel is the Vice President of Clinical Services for Continuing Healthcare Solutions. To learn more about Continuing Healthcare Solutions, click here.
has spent fifteen years in Long-Term Care management. He has worked as everything from a DON to a Vice President. John also has eight years of hospital management experience, starting as a Nurse and leaving as Chief Clinical Officer. He has his BSN in Nursing and Master’s Degree in Management.
John lives in Green, Ohio and enjoys boating, coaching and playing outside with his three young daughters.