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Leadership is a skill that anyone can learn. It's not something that people are born with, but rather something that can be developed through the right mindset and observable behaviors that lead to measurable outcomes.
Unfortunately, a significant number of American workers report that their boss is toxic, and dealing with their manager is the most stressful part of their workday.
In the healthcare industry, toxic leadership can have serious consequences. The stress and anxiety caused by toxic leaders can lead to decreased morale, burnout, and poor patient outcomes. It is important for healthcare organizations to recognize the impact of toxic leadership and take steps to build a more effective approach to leadership.
To address the challenges of today's complex organizational environment, a new approach to leadership known as servant leadership is emerging.
In the healthcare industry, servant leadership is becoming an increasingly relevant approach to leadership. Rather than being a manager who directs and controls people, healthcare leaders are expected to be in service to the people they lead, with a focus on making the lives of their team members easier - physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Research suggests that this approach can enhance both team performance and satisfaction.
To practice servant leadership in healthcare, leaders must embody empathy, compassion, vulnerability, gratitude, self-awareness, and self-care. They must provide appreciation and support, creating psychological safety so their employees are able to collaborate, innovate, and raise issues as appropriate. This includes celebrating achieving the small steps on the way to reaching big goals and enhancing people’s well-being through better human connections. These conditions have been shown to allow for a team’s best performance.
To develop this approach to leadership in healthcare, leaders can make five key shifts that build on traditional approaches, but go beyond them:
- From being an executive to an effective visionary, shaping a clear purpose that resonates with and generates holistic impact for all stakeholders.
- From being a planner to a pioneering architect, reimagining the healthcare industry and revolutionizing its service systems that can create values for the patients.
- From being a director to a dynamic catalyst, engaging people to collaborate in open, empowered networks.
- From being a controller to a compassionate coach, enabling the organization to constantly evolve through rapid learning, and empowering colleagues to build new mindsets, knowledge, and skills.
- From being a boss to a benevolent human, showing up as one’s whole, authentic self and building meaningful connections.
- being supportive
- operating with a strong results orientation
- seeking different perspectives, and
- solving problems effectively.
Leaders who demonstrate these traits tend to base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid biases. They build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges, allowing for a team's best performance.
In the context of healthcare, leadership is essential for ensuring that patients receive the best possible care particularly in a constantly chaotic environment such as in emergency department.
In the healthcare industry, these four types of behavior are particularly relevant.
Healthcare leaders who are supportive can create a positive work environment where healthcare workers feel valued and respected. This means creating psychological safety for healthcare workers so they can collaborate, innovate, and raise issues as appropriate. It also means supporting healthcare workers and recognizing the physical and emotional toll that the job can take.
1. Being supportive
Supporting others is also essential in healthcare, where healthcare workers often face emotionally challenging situations. Leaders who understand and sense how healthcare workers feel can provide emotional support and build trust, which can improve the quality of care provided to patients. This can also help reduce burnout and turnover rates and resignation (including migration from public to private healthcare services) among healthcare workers, which can have a significant impact on patient care.
2. Operating with a strong results orientation
Operating with a strong results orientation is also essential in healthcare. Leaders must prioritize patient outcomes and ensure that their organization is providing the best possible care. This may involve implementing quality improvement initiatives or streamlining processes to improve efficiency and productivity.
3. Seeking different perspectives
Seeking different perspectives is crucial in healthcare, as the industry is constantly evolving. Leaders who monitor trends affecting healthcare organizations can make informed decisions about how to adapt to changing circumstances. Encouraging employees to contribute ideas can also lead to innovative solutions that improve patient care.
4. Solving problems effectively
Solving problems effectively is particularly important in healthcare, where decisions can have a significant impact on patient care and outcomes. In healthcare, effective problem-solving involves gathering and analyzing information to make informed decisions. This may include reviewing patient data, consulting with other healthcare professionals, and staying up-to-date with the latest research and best practices.
Effective problem-solving can help healthcare organizations identify and address issues that may be impacting patient care. For example, if patient wait times are consistently long, a healthcare leader may analyze the patient flow process to identify areas for improvement. They may work with staff to develop and implement new processes or protocols that help reduce wait times and improve the patient experience.
Besides that. to be an effective leader, one must first look inward and examine your own modes of operating to learn what makes you tick.
Leo Tolstoy once wrote that “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changinghimself.”
This idea is
particularly relevant for executives leading organizational change, as
it highlights the crucial role of personal transformation in achieving
meaningful and lasting organizational change. Through years of
collaboration in leadership and cultural transformation, experts have
discovered that individual change is integral to organizational change,
and that change initiatives often fail when individuals overlook the
importance of transforming themselves. While building self-awareness and
translating it into organizational change can be challenging, it is a
necessary step towards successful change initiatives. This article aims
to provide insights and guidance for leaders who are ready to embark on
Firstly, healthcare professionals are often exposed to emotionally challenging situations, and looking inward can help them manage their emotions and maintain their well-being. Taking time to reflect on one's experiences and feelings can help healthcare professionals identify sources of stress or burnout and take steps to address them.
Secondly, looking inward can help healthcare professionals improve their self-awareness and empathy, which are critical qualities for providing patient-centered care. By examining their own attitudes and biases, healthcare professionals can identify potential barriers to effective communication and work to overcome them. This can lead to improved patient satisfaction and better outcomes.
Thirdly, looking inward can help healthcare professionals identify areas for improvement in their practice. By reflecting on their experiences and outcomes, healthcare professionals can identify areas where they may need additional training or support. This can help them provide better care to their patients and improve their own professional development.
Finally, looking inward can help healthcare professionals build stronger relationships with their colleagues and teams. By examining their own communication and collaboration skills, healthcare professionals can identify ways to improve teamwork and support their colleagues.
McKinsey & Company. (2022). What is leadership? https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/mckinsey-explainers/what-is-leadership?cid=other-eml-onp-mip-mck&hlkid=1ff8edda0ca64c6e8b6df90f06b17a76&hctky=11931892&hdpid=3be6ac3b-e848-40ac-b54c-c1d5864e36c1#/
McKinsey & Company. (2019). Decoding leadership: What really matters. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/decoding-leadership-what-really-matters#/McKinsey & Company. (2015). Change leader, change thyself. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/change-leader-change-thyself#/