Healthcare is a unique industry. Are the leadership skills required, different? Analysis shows that there may be slight differences, but more importantly, organizations need to understand their own unique challenges and be more deliberate, and effective, at selecting, and developing, leaders.
Is healthcare leadership unique? It is, certainly, uniquely challenging, particularly today. For instance, in most industries, senior leaders have the luxury of a clear mission. Healthcare organizations, however, present a more complex environment with multiple parties, both internally and externally, who define success and who are part of the decision-making process. Now healthcare leaders are facing an unprecedented array of changes and challenges.
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In aggregate, when we measure the strengths and weaknesses of healthcare leaders, we only see minor differences. We compared the results of over 2000 healthcare managers and directors, to our normative database of all industries. Rather than comparing healthcare leaders to other industries, though, it’s more important to look at the skills of individual leadership teams, and consider how they impact that organization’s challenges. We need to look at group and individual strengths and weaknesses in the context of that organization’s real operational challenges.
Many current senior leaders were educated and groomed in a more traditional culture, driven by academic structure and a fee-for-service mentality. Today’s challenges require emotional intelligence, communication and listening skills and the ability to build teams and be a good team member.
The leadership gap is often even more pronounced when we look just below the senior ranks. It’s not uncommon for us to make the best nurse, a nurse manager with little evaluation of her potential to succeed in that role, and with little in the way of structure or support to develop those skills. While new leaders may feel they’ve been removed from the front lines of patient care, and their ability to immediately impact patients and families, nothing could be further from the truth. The ability to effectively manage and lead, to implement the strategic plan, and to support and develop front line staff means the impact on patients is expanded exponentially.
Some important key steps to improving how you select and develop leaders:
Identify the behavioral skills important for your organization’s particular situation.
Use the latest, proven, efficient, and effective tools to understand the behavioral strengths and weaknesses of candidates and incumbents.
Use this information as the basis for choosing between candidates for leadership roles.
Use this same data as the foundation of effective individual or group developmental plans.
Implement a thorough, comprehensive, and effective leadership development program.
Design and implement a solid succession plan. If you can’t point to a clearly defined plan, then you don’t have one!