The 4 Strengths of Successful Healthcare Leaders
Successful Healthcare leadership is both a skill and an art. The art is in crafting leadership in a way that people want to follow, and the skill is maintaining that following, not allowing your successful leadership to turn sour, to turn into tyranny.
Within a healthcare setting, great leaders are needed at every level. To lead teams, to lead hospitals, and even lead states and nations. As we see with the recent COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, top healthcare professionals could be called upon at any given time to be the voice of their profession and to give reassurance to worried patients and patient families.
Great leaders need to be willing to make a change, to stand up for what is right and, as we’ve seen recently in the UK with Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty reluctantly taking the podium at numerous press conferences, to sometimes be the face of healthcare for a government trying to communicate with the nation.
How to Be A Successful Healthcare Leader
Many aspects define a successful healthcare leader; having competencies in business, in organizational change, having excellent interpersonal skills, as well as excellent managerial skills, are the basics for exceptional leadership.
A good leadership strategy can change an organization from the ground up. Knowing that you are working for or starting work for an organization that is open, honest, and listens to everyone on the team makes a huge difference to working practices.
Leaders are not made overnight, though. While it is true that some people do seem to be natural leaders, leadership skills are not something, only the chosen few can possess. If you are working within healthcare, there are various ways you can improve your leadership skills through workshops and training, and there are even specific nursing leadership courses, great for improving your leadership skills and improving your job prospects at the same time.
Leadership strengths explored
Four strengths are time and time again mentioned when discussing Successful Healthcare leadership, and each one is just as vital as the other within a healthcare setting.
Excellent communication skills
Communication comes in various forms. Both verbal and non-verbal, in person and via telephone, email, video, or through third parties. When we think about communication in a healthcare setting, we generally tend to think about bedside manner, the art of being ‘present’ with patients and supporting them no matter what they are going through. Within the scope of excellent healthcare leadership, though, bedside manner is only a small aspect.
Healthcare leaders need to know how to communicate with their team, with teams above them and teams below them. They need to have excellent problem-solving skills and be a skilled listener to ensure that everyone gets heard and everyone’s ideas and opinions are explored sufficiently.
Leaders within the healthcare field also need to be able to communicate bad news. Although we may not like to think about it, hospitals and other healthcare settings need to be run efficiently, and sometimes that means making tough decisions.
High levels of empathy
Following directly on from the critical strength of excellent communication is the genuine ability to be empathic with those around you. Empathy and sympathy are not the same things. Where sympathy is feeling sorrow or pity for the person, you are communicating with, being empathetic is to truly understand and stand with the person with whom you are communicating.
Having genuine empathy in each situation is tough. Still, the skill of being able to ‘put yourself in their shoes’ will mean leaders develop trust and understanding from the people that they work with easier.
The best way to practice being empathic is to really live it. Act, say, and do the things that make a great leader, for seeing is believing. When colleagues, peers, or patients see someone acting as a leader should, saying the things leaders should say and doing the things leaders should do, the only logical conclusion is that of leadership.
Strong levels of self-awareness
Sometimes known as being cognizant, mindful, present, or attentive, the art of being self-aware stretches further than just the self, and the impact of taking more notice of oneself has far-reaching consequences in every setting.
Being self-aware is sometimes called one of the most critical strengths a great leader can possess. Being able to grasp and solve problems quickly and effectively will only service great leaders so far; the real strength comes in making others feel as if it was them that solved the problem. Giving away the credit when it is a positive outcome and taking responsibility when it is not.
Being self-aware means knowing the subtle art of body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and use of language. It’s also about being responsible and developing a high level of emotional intelligence.
It is not easy, though, as the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, said: “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely”.
Being unafraid of accountability
Great leaders are not afraid to be accountable. As discussed above, great leaders should be willing to give away credit when the outcome is positive and take personal responsibility when it is not. Leaders should lead from the front, not lead from the back.
Within a healthcare setting, this means leaders will need to be measured to create a standard level of accountability. Leaders need to be able to accept criticism as well as positive feedback. Beyond that, they also need to know how to effectively give out constructive criticism while supporting the people they work with, under, and above.
One of the most important aspects of being accountable is being able to be accountable under pressure. It is easy to accept responsibility for a minor indiscretion or problem. Still, when the pressure is on, and other people’s lives and livelihoods depend on it, that is when the true leaders will walk forward into the firing line as it were.
Great leadership can empower employees to really be the best that they can be. Motivated and supported employees work better than those who are always afraid of losing their job or being made an ‘example of’. Within the healthcare sector, we need productive and supportive employees. We need good leaders.