Healthcare leadership is a vital conversation topic that needs to be more prominent. Modern leadership is no longer about managing a group of people, it’s no longer about managing a ‘team’, leadership is about getting the best out of people in the worst settings, and what better example do we have than healthcare?
The rates of burnout, suicide, and depression within healthcare have sadly only got worse over the last few decades, leading to a great shake-up of how we work and how to move forward. People working in health care need to be supportive and empathic towards their patients as well as their colleagues. Having great leaders within the healthcare setting makes this a lot easier, as they tend to ‘lead by example’.
Leadership has become a hot topic over the last few years, with inspirational speakers such as Simon Sinek finding fame with one of the most popular Ted Talks of all time, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, and the rise of the ‘leader coach’ approach within the workplace.
Inspiring leadership means taking positive and affirmative action. Promoting someone to a managerial role does not necessarily mean they have the skills to be an effective or even a good leader.
Thankfully, the healthcare field is recognizing this issue and firing back with many options for study and CPD, such as the DNP Nursing leadership courses now available for Registered Nurses, if they want to take their medical knowledge and career to the next level.
Being an effective leader is 90% about showing up and 10% about doing. Leaders are those who gain a reputation for looking out for their colleagues, their employees, and those above them. When the going is good, they will give credit away to the team, when the going is bad, leaders will take responsibility.
Here are five ways we can be better leaders within a healthcare setting.
Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk is all about the “start with why” philosophy. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” he says so emphatically. It is up to us as healthcare leaders to ensure that we are communicating our vision to the people we work with and for.
Leaders are excellent communicators, knowing how to inspire others to achieve the same goals is almost an instinct, but it is backed up by making clear and robust plans, so everyone is on the same page. Leaders then accept responsibility, whether that means accepting success or accepting failure.
Talent can mean many different things to different people. In a healthcare setting, this could be recognizing people for the work they do and noticing particularly when someone shines at a task.
Recognition is only half the battle though, many employees will leave if they don’t feel supported in their roles or pushed to achieve further, so once we as leaders recognize that talent, we must ensure we nurture it and allow it to grow.
A great example of this is from Suzanne Anderson, President of Virginia Mason Medical Center (Seattle). She says:
“Once, when I was struggling with something I was developing, my boss asked me, ‘Do you think you’re smart?’ I responded, ‘Yes.’ He then said, ‘If you can’t figure it out, then no one can.’ That advice provided me with permission to be creative and the confidence that I could do things that others might not be able to do. This also reinforced assurances from my dad that made me believe I could do anything I wanted to do. To this day, I am reminded of all those encouraging words whenever I’m in a difficult situation.” (Anderson, S. Beckers Hospital Review)
Great leaders are great listeners. They follow the maxim that ‘The patient always knows what is wrong with them, you just have to ask the right questions.’, and applies this to everyone they work with, patient and colleague alike.
In some cases, it may be hard to listen, to hear some truths which we would prefer to keep hidden but allowing people space and time to explain can save a lot of problems further down the line. This is great for patient care and great for the efficiency of the healthcare setting in which the leader works.
English Anthropologist, Dame Jane Goodall once said: “Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is all right, as long your values don’t change”.
Being strong in your core values means never compromising your integrity. Leaders will fight for what is right, even if it is not a popular position to take. Respect is earned, and one of the best ways leaders can earn respect is by sticking by their core values and keeping their integrity intact, admitting mistakes, and supporting others without gloating.
Thinking of healthcare in terms of ‘customer service’ may not be something everyone is comfortable with, especially as it gives the entire sector a very transactional feel. There is, however, a strong value in the healthcare leader’s thinking in terms of customer service.
Statistics are generally based on the patient outcome: did they live or did they not? We rarely consider the care that the patient received as part of the analysis. Thinking about patient care, however, is vital for many reasons. Not least that if patients are unhappy with their care, they are unlikely to be receptive to further treatment, and may even influence the care of others but sharing their story.
The whole concept of One Health is:
“To improve health and well-being through the prevention of risks and the mitigation of effects of crises that originate at the interface between humans, animals and their various environments”.
If a patient is unhappy with the treatment they receive (even if it was a good outcome), they are likely to prove a kink in the strong chain of healthcare.
Leaders can help mitigate this risk by ensuring that everyone who works in their healthcare setting is briefed on good ‘customer service’, or ‘good bedside manner’ and to ensure that the global importance of this tiny change in mindset is communicated effectively.
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