No one leadership approach is a cure-all for the complex challenges healthcare executives face on a daily basis. For starters, leadership strategies in healthcare need to balance business concerns against the altruistic mission at the core of their purpose: improving the health outcomes of their patients and the communities they serve. Even nonprofit healthcare organizations need to maintain healthy revenue streams to attract qualified staff and meet the high costs of patient care.
To meet these competing demands, healthcare leaders need to possess a diverse skill set, including financial strategy, integrity, emotional intelligence, excellent problem solving and communication abilities, and, given the labor shortages the industry is likely to face in the coming decades, recruiting and hiring expertise.
There are many types of organizational leadership that can work in a healthcare setting, but due to this sector’s unique focus on mission, these three approaches tend to work best:
- Continuous improvement management
- Transformational leadership
- Collaborative leadership
1. Continuous Improvement Management
Continuous improvement management methods like Six Sigma focus on increasing efficiency and optimizing resources. In healthcare this leadership strategy is most useful when it focuses on constant improvement in the quality of patient care.
Even with patient care and safety as your top priorities, continuous improvement can be extended to every department, from finance to fund-raising, from patient intake to IT. Of all the leadership strategies in healthcare, it is probably the most efficient method for cutting costs and streamlining processes without sacrificing patient care.
To implement continuous improvement, follow these steps:
- Invite input on what can be improved from patients, family members, and other outside stakeholders.
- With input from your executive team and representative staff, sift through stakeholder feedback to select a few (3-5) key goals to work on, tabling the remainder for future implementation.
- Design your system analysis around your key goals and, if necessary, research tech solutions that can help you gather and monitor data.
- Train staff to begin gathering and interpreting data.
- Begin strategizing ways to improve outcomes based on the collected data.
Staff may find this approach cumbersome at first since it requires extensive documentation to measure the effects of implemented changes and adjust accordingly, as well as frequent training to change processes based on findings. However, transparency can help ease implementation. When executives and department heads share their own mistakes with staff and talk candidly about what they have learned from them, it encourages the same level of self-reflection at all staff levels.
2. Transformational Leadership
Since fundraising and public relations are such critical aspects of health facility stewardship, one of the most prevalent leadership strategies in healthcare is transformational management.
Sometimes referred to as “visionary” or even “disruptive,” in healthcare transformational leaders focus on long-term, systemwide solutions. For example, to address staffing shortages these leaders may be the first to embrace technical solutions that can streamline processes, even if this may mean some disruption in the short term as staff becomes familiar with a new way of doing things.
These leaders are often brought in to rehabilitate organizational reputations after bad publicity or financial setbacks, and their approach is often cutting edge. They may also be perceived as high risk, especially in a setting with a critical mission like healthcare, where highly trained specialist employees tend to crave stability and autonomy.
They’re often charismatic, employing their communication skills, including leadership storytelling, to charm donors, secure resources, and motivate employees. Their personal connection to employees means that they can be reassuring in times of crisis.
3. Collaborative Leadership
Effective communication on the patient-care level can be the difference between life and death. For this reason, collaborative or shared leadership is an especially effective management strategy in healthcare, as it enables cross-disciplinary teams to work together efficiently to save lives and improve health outcomes.
When choosing among leadership strategies in healthcare, modeling transparency at the highest levels of your organization underscores the importance of clear and honest communication. This level of trust is integral aspect of collaborative leadership and can strengthen teambuilding across departments at all staffing levels.
Since collaborative leaders make those around them feel empowered, this leadership approach is an especially good fit for a sector like healthcare where highly skilled and sought-after specialists have so much invested in their professional identity and tend to balk at micromanaging. This leadership style works well at teaching and research hospitals, where it can empower innovation.
By mentoring and empowering employees, collaborative leaders increase job satisfaction and employee investment in the organizational mission.
Leadership Strategies in Healthcare: Hiring and Retention
Thanks to an aging population, no healthcare organization will need to worry about a shortage of consumers in the coming decades. But, the same demographic shifts that have increased demand for healthcare services have placed—and will continue to place—enormous pressure on healthcare recruitment and retention strategies.
In other words, for the next few decades, all healthcare leaders will need to become hiring experts. Though healthcare tends to attract mission-driven professionals who are dedicated to their patients, its inherent stress levels can cause burnout.
The following leadership strategies in healthcare can help attract applicants and reduce employee churn:
- Don’t delegate recruitment and hiring solely to your HR team. Instead, make sure that hiring is an organization-wide endeavor with input from a cross section of stakeholders.
- Implement policies that promote work-life balance and reduce stress to reduce burnout and keep staffing levels robust.
- Dedicate the same focus on your employee brand as you do on building your consumer brand.
- Make your institution a destination for top-performing providers across a range of specialties, one where physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals by focusing on staff development and training.
- Keeping in mind that healthcare tends to attract mission-driven employees, center patient in every aspect of your organization.
Learn How to Leverage Healthcare Management and Hiring Techniques to Grow Your Business
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