Good leadership in healthcare is critical to the success of the industry’s transformation, but it’s the subject few want to discuss. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that technology and data alone will solve the challenges currently facing our healthcare system. The industry is undergoing a significant change and any change management program indicates that executive sponsorship or leadership is a critical success factor. Yet, when I speak at conferences around the world, leadership is the number one topic I receive follow up comments about. The presentation could be on healthcare transformation, population health, precision medicine or healthcare analytics – none of which can be implemented without good leadership. I could spend 5 minutes or 50 minutes on leadership, and have consistently found that leadership is the area people want to comment on the most. It’s the subject no one wants to talk about, but everyone wants to hear about.
If you are still skeptical, let me point you to a study we did a few years ago on the challenges to implementing healthcare analytics. Participants at a conference were asked to indicate the top challenges they faced in implementing analytics at their healthcare organization. The results were classified into 10 categories for further examination and included the usual suspects such as analytics tools, data management, talent and technology. Leadership, at 29%, was considered the top challenge by a wide margin and included common terms/phrases such as “lack of priority”, “lack of vision”, “need for buy-in from staff” and “lack of direction”, but also included “disparate EHR systems”, “siloed systems” and “teams not working together”. These issues can all be resolved through proper leadership.
Even more surprising was the source of these comments. As part of the study, the participants were asked to include their title on the survey form. The results indicated that all levels of the organization were represented. The titles were summarized into wide span of control which included positions director level and above and narrow span of control which included all others. When titles were matched back to the individual challenges we discovered that there was little disparity between responses based on the organization level, especially in the leadership category. The lack of difference between the job types identifying leadership as a major challenge points to those in leadership positions not fully recognizing their role in the change management process.
This also indicates that the leadership challenges are not just senior management related, but pervasive throughout many healthcare organizations. Generalizing the blame on physician- leaders as the problem is incorrect for many reasons, including:
- They have been dealt a very difficult hand by having to transform an entire industry in a short amount of time. Any leader, no matter their background, would be challenged to be successful. Healthcare leaders have been charged with changing a far-reaching healthcare system in a short amount of time. Change that extensive would be difficult for any industry or leader.
- Healthcare is very siloed, so the path to the top is typically one-dimensional versus the multi-dimensional paths taken in other industries where executives work in different departments, different business units or even different countries. Healthcare executives typically follow only a couple of routes to the top, which usually only includes clinical, operations, policy, etc.
- Many of the top healthcare organizations in the country are run by physicians. In the most recent U.S. News Best Hospitals ranking, 8 out of the top 10 hospitals are led by physicians or clinicians. I have had the opportunity to talk to and even interview several top healthcare leaders for my book Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare. Based on my discussions, it is apparent that these leaders at some point became self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses. As I point out in my book, the leader has a choice to either adapt to the situation or succumb to it. The best ones adapt.
The bottom line is that it’s all about leadership, not matter what the senior executive’s background is. All leaders have shortcomings. The best ones assess what they bring to the table, develop a leadership vision based on their assessment and execute on it every day. Not everyone will be a great leader, but many can become better leaders with the right leadership process. Healthcare leaders have even greater challenges with the rate of change and the lives impacted. Using a personalized, comprehensive and proven approach to leadership is the right prescription.
￩￫$19.95Now, more than ever, we need leaders in healthcare who are well-versed in all aspects of leadership. Unfortunately, the skills that made healthcare leaders successful in the past may not be enough to be successful in the future. Managing change requires a very special set of skills and abilities.
"Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare" is based on the proprietary 5-step Professional Leadership Process which is a personalized, leadership development program based on an individual’s innate qualities and strengths. It is designed as a continually improving process to help leaders develop and adapt a personalized leadership vision and philosophy for utilization in their daily leadership routine. It creates better leaders by incorporating the most often overlooked steps that research indicates are essential to better leadership development. Additionally, it includes the leadership perspectives from several healthcare executives, business executives and sports champions.
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$9.95This 20-page companion workbook to the Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare book. It is designed to help you synthesize the contents in the book, document your steps to becoming a better leader and create your leadership gameplan. The workbook features fill-in pages for you to:
- assess your leadership influences
- assess your personality and leadership abilities
- develop a leadership vision
- develop tools to execute your vision
- begin regular reflection
- seek coaches and/or mentors
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Purchase the Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare combo and receive a signed copy of the book and the Leadership Practice Workbook. Both items will arrive together after the book is published in mid-July 2017.
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