What Are the Most Effective Leadership Styles in Healthcare?

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

As healthcare evolves, so too do the desired and ideal characteristics of the professionals who work in its various leadership roles. From an increased need for technological savvy to heightened cultural sensitivity and awareness, there’s a lot required of today's healthcare leader.

That said, what are some basics he or she must have? What are the leadership styles that work just as well in the C-suite as on the critical care unit, or freestanding emergency clinic? Here are some of the “evergreen” leadership styles that are flexible and adaptable enough to position someone well in today’s healthcare arena—and tomorrow’s.

The Democratic Leader

He or she values collaboration and teamwork. The pluses of this leadership style include:

  • ·near-constant opportunities for feedback
  • employees feel valued
  • confidence in the team based on frequent check-ins

However, this leader can come up short when a quick pivot is needed. Seeking the opinion of everyone can be time-consuming and may lead to long periods of conflict resolution if there are distinct differences in approach within the team to a specific issue or problem.

The Coaching/Relationship Leader

Much like the Democratic leader, this individual is all about knowing each member of the team and having a strong professional relationship with them. He or she is strongly committed to professional development, new skills, and employee retention. The pros of this style are obvious, but so are the cons—relationship building takes time, and it’s hard to be almost constantly engaged with staff and still handle administrative duties.

The Transformational Leader

This leader is the evangelist for big change and the setter of aspirational goals. This leader can motivate like no other and is adept at creating plans for change that are a big reach, yet still doable if everyone buys in. What he or she may not have, however, is the ability to get granular with the details of those big moves. He or she often needs to have some seconds-in-command whose job it is to sweat the details.

The Authority Leader

This person is more old-school and inspires a mix of fear and awe—which is not always a bad thing. He or she is seen as a role model by their staff, and when this person speaks, people listen. The downside may be that he or she also can be a bit dictatorial and not always open to input, insights, or criticism, especially if near the end of a long and successful career. The good ones, like the aspirational leader, have a layer of managers between them and the workforce to soften the blow of what can sometimes be seen as abrupt changes or additions to rules, regulations, and processes.

This is just a small sample of leadership styles, and not meant to be a comprehensive list. There are as many styles of leadership as there are “how to” books to master each, of course. And every facility is going to need some or all of these individuals, depending on the variety and complexity of services provided, the cultural makeup of the workforce and community, and other variables almost too numerous to count. Identifying what leadership styles are working—or not working—is a strong first step for any HR team or hiring committee to take when vetting a pool of possible applicants from either within or outside the organization.

Explore HealthStream’s Leadership Development Solutions for the Healthcare Workforce.