When we hear about decisions and organizational change, it comes from the top of the pyramid, using such phrases as ‘change starts at the top,’ or a ‘top-down overhaul.’ An organization’s leader, or leadership team, sets the tone, pace, and goals for its operations. This reality is no different for healthcare providers than any other business. Even so, a healthcare provider is very different than most business entities for numerous reasons, not the least of which is its payment, or reimbursement, structure alongside its being heavily regulated. And that is why having the right kind of leader is paramount for success — and why someone with a skillset that would do well in another business realm might struggle.
Which of These Leaders Describes You?
With that in mind, let’s look at some general types of leaders, and assess how they might fare in a healthcare setting:
The Structural Leader. This person is very hands-on and extremely oriented to process, steps, and outcome. They take a granular approach to everything from staffing to budgeting and measuring outcomes. The structural leader is able to make very quick decisions based on his or her extreme familiarity with all aspects of the operation, which is a positive. However, he or she also can be seen as transactional, and not setting the kind of teamwork tone that most healthcare workers, particularly nurses, say they require to thrive.
The Participating Leader. Here the leader is “one of the gang,” and values spending time with, and showing respect for, staff. His or her hallmark is consensus building, and lots of input and collaboration on major decision and goals. The bonus here is that everyone on the team feels very valued, which enables a stronger buy-in should tough decisions need to be made. At the same time, it can make the organization appear leaderless, or run by committee.
The Servant Leader. Akin to the Participating Leader, this individual places a high value on managing as he or she wishes to be managed. Empathy and understanding, along with a strong desire to ensure everyone on the team has the tools for success, are goals. These leaders are known to place a high premium on training and continuing education and are highly valued by their team due to the personal nature of their approach. But like the Participating Leader, they can sometimes be seen as a pushover, or beholden to one group more than another, leading to factionalization.
The Empowering Leader. This leader is all about setting the goal, providing the tools — and getting out of the way. It’s a great approach for an entrepreneurial endeavor and empowers the “can do” members of the staff. In healthcare, however, where there often are prescribed steps or mandated processes toward reaching a goal, it can create confusion or conflicting outcomes.
The Transformational Leader. This leader gives the best motivational speeches ever — and is entirely sincere in his or her belief that the team can do anything they set their mind to. This is a big-picture leader, who leads by example and never stops encouraging the best from everyone involved.
Not every healthcare entity is the same; their leaders shouldn’t be, either. The right combination of skill, character and mindset defines leaders who achieve not just their team’s goals, but also their own. They know that they are there to manage, and that’s a key job responsibility, and they also know that their role is to motivate, encourage and inspire.
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