Developing leadership talent is a significant challenge facing healthcare; it is tough to address, as the exit of industry leaders looms large in light of career-defining pressures created by the pandemic. The pandemic’s timing coincides with many baby boomers entering retirement age. This has the potential to leave a vacuum of power and experience that neither of the two generations after them can address on their own. The number of Generation Xers is too few to fulfill the demand, and while some millennials are exceptionally qualified to take senior positions today, most are still developing and honing their skills. As healthcare organizations work to fill leadership positions and prepare the next generation of leaders, what traits will be most important for those leaders to possess?
Traits for Aspiring Leaders at all Stages
Entrepreneurship: Develop an entrepreneurial mindset aimed at meeting others’ needs.
Although it seems to be part of a new vernacular, “entrepreneurship” in healthcare is hardly new. In her book Unlikely Entrepreneurs, Catholic Sisters and the Hospital Marketplace 1865–1925, Barbra Mann Wall shares the story of a 27-year-old Irish immigrant nun who sailed across the ocean in 1877 and would later become administrator of a major Catholic hospital in the U.S. That nun, Sister Lidwina Butler, would ultimately lead two different hospitals, and her second stint as a hospital administrator would last 18 years.
Her literal and figurative journeys defined her and many other religious women who set sail from Ireland and other European countries and some who relocated from within the United States to serve the healthcare needs of others. The women who made those journeys also helped set the standard for the modern healthcare leader: to create and sustain a robust health infrastructure and care models to take care of the vulnerable, their families and communities. Their model of entrepreneurship was as relevant then as it is today. They carefully and systematically studied their communities to identify unmet needs and focused relentlessly on meeting those needs—traits today’s leaders should aspire to as well.
Accountability: Be accountable to yourself and others.
For years, author Cy Wakeman has proposed that accountability––which she describes as the mindset to exert control over one’s circumstances and embracing reality––increases individual performance. Embracing reality and rejecting the urge to fill in the blanks with biases and drama are timeless characteristics that will help leaders succeed.
Trust and Trustworthiness: Trust and be worthy of the trust of others.
In their Sept. 8, 2016, article in the journal Business Ethics: A European Review, authors Alvaro Lleo de Nalda of the University of Navarra, Manuel Guillen of the University of Valencia, and Ignacio Gil Pechuan of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, discuss their research on the influence of three factors that influence the trust between managers and subordinates. They use the widely accepted definitions of these terms as follows:
- Ability: The skills and knowledge necessary to do one’s job.
- Benevolence: The demonstration of caring for those under one’s leadership, and loyalty to them for reasons not related to self-interest.
- Integrity: The adherence to sound ethical and moral principles (including an organization’s articulated values) and following through on one’s word.
Though organizations have multiple ways in which to influence the degree of trust employees have in them, there is no variable more able to impact trust than the immediate supervisor.
Higher Purpose: Connect to the mission and find a higher purpose at work.
In their book Option B, Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg speak about the importance of finding meaning at work. For those of us in the healthcare workforce, well-being is dependent on the healthy integration of life and work. As a generation of millennials engages in leadership pursuits, many also are experiencing how life and work are now permeating each other. They, like Gen X and baby boomers, realize the importance of what we do matters beyond profits and losses and that we can impact the lives of others for the better, thereby increasing fulfillment with work. To do work that matters also increases one’s ability to experience happiness and joy in life and work.
A Leadership Framework
Luminis Health has developed its Team, Change and Business leadership framework as the foundation of its efforts toward leadership development. Leaders who attend training or perform developmental activities intentionally tie what they have learned into this framework. This balanced approach ensures every aspect of a leader’s competency is appropriately supported and developed.
The TCB framework informs the identification and development of high-potential leaders. It also helps the organization achieve effective succession planning. Luminis Health’s Leadership Essentials, one of the mechanisms for leadership development based on the TCB framework, aims to develop a balanced set of competencies common to all leaders in the organization.
Tools for Team and Self-Development
As part of their development, leaders at Luminis Health become versed in principles of mindfulness and well-being. Leaders also use talent-measurement tools to uncover their strengths, help them lead with those strengths, as well as celebrate and capitalize on the strengths of others on their teams. The organization also administers emotional intelligence competency assessment tools. In addition, it offers opportunities for leaders to discuss the results revealed by both tools individually and in groups led by certified facilitators.
As the healthcare field continues to evolve, the next generation of leaders will need to be well prepared for what lies ahead. With these leadership traits in mind, and with rigor and attention to leadership development, healthcare organizations will be able to continue to care for their patients and improve the health of the communities they serve while providing career opportunities in which leaders and staff can thrive.
—Adapted from “Traits for Tomorrow’s Leaders,” Healthcare Executive, J. Manuel Ocasio, FACHE, chief human resources officer, Luminis Health, Annapolis, Md.