The evolving leadership role in healthcare

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We’re all well aware of the many challenges facing our industry and our country right now. A perfect storm of a pandemic, political turmoil, economic stress, and current events have people feeling under siege. Add to that a healthcare industry that is continually under fire and buffeted by changes. Sheltering in place, working remotely while balancing both family and work commitments, and an extremely polarized country have created some truly stressful times.

But out of this chaos comes an opportunity to rethink how we in the healthcare industry do business. It’s an opportunity to create an inclusive corporate culture where people feel they’re doing something important. It’s also the perfect time to rethink how we bring people into the workforce who can work well remotely and independently, yet still add to the sense of community we want to maintain.

The impact on the workforce

I personally know many people who are feeling disconnected, stressed, and overwhelmed right now. It’s the job of the leadership team to make people feel good about where they are and confident that the company can navigate through the chaos. That’s a pretty challenging assignment for leadership!

Leading in the new normal

Evolving leadership in the healthcare industry is more than just being reactive. This could be the moment for companies to get it right, to turn the box upside down and try to put the puzzle back together in a different way. An opportunity for companies to become compelling places for people to work and add value. Recognizing that something like the coronavirus could happen again—how do we prepare for it in the future? The legacy of COVID isn’t going away in a month or two—we could be looking at a year or two.

We need to rethink our formula for success both short- and long-term.

Some things leadership needs to consider

  • How do we need to change talent recruitment and development to prepare for the future?
  • How do we recruit people who can work well remotely and independently, but who still want to be part of a group?
  • Are we spending our money on our employees in the right places?
  • What’s the profile of someone who can adjust to this new environment and thrive in it?
  • How do our systems support adaptability and flexibility of individuals?
  • How do we create a pipeline of diversity and make inclusion part of the corporate culture?

We need a plan B

Healthcare companies are beginning to grapple with the issue of how to create a sense of community and identification in a fragmented world. And that’s going to take some thought in terms of what is it that people treasure, what is it that they really value, and what is it about your company that they identify with. And if there isn’t anything they identify with, why not?

Corporate cultures have typically tended to minimize creativity and innovation individually and in teams. Going forward, I think the only way corporate cultures are going to survive is if they are committed to having the best ideas and developing new responses.

To understand the answers to these questions, we must listen to what our employees say. The new model has to give employees the tools they need and recognize their capacity for individual thinking and creativity.

Leadership needs to rethink what you need to accomplish as an organization—5 years or longer. Rather than look at efficiency—the most results with the fewest people—you will have to think about how to improve community productivity.

For example, in the past, you would have had people come to a meeting and work on a project together. You assumed everyone knew each other. But in this world, you will have to make a real effort to help them.

It’s the perfect opportunity for companies to reinvent how they get work done.

My personal trainer was forced to rethink his company because no one wanted to go to the gym. He now makes most of his money doing virtual training. He has scheduled a lot more people because now he doesn’t have to go back and forth to clients. He’s making more money than before.

He rethought how he did the work—which is what’s needed in companies large and small across the country.

We may be looking at several years of change. It’s no doubt a chaotic environment—but it could be a creative one if we rigorously review what works and what doesn’t and rapidly eliminate the latter.


Two books I recommend: Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin and The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson.


Get inspired by leaders who led through difficult times

True leaders offer people a sense of security and a sense of focus. They serve as a beacon for people. In The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, you see how Churchill allowed the British people to feel that they would get through this, that they were moving forward. He never lost courage and his courage bolstered the entire nation.

Another great read, Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin takes a look at four inspirational presidents who steered our country during chaotic and turbulent times. Lincoln had to deal with a civil war and social injustice that threatened to destroy a nation not yet 100 years old.

Both Churchill and Lincoln shared a quality of exceptional leaders—that sense of identification and connectedness with their people. Both of these leaders stayed close to their people. They also provided their people with a clear vision of the future as well as a realistic vision of failure.

People don’t look to leaders for specific answers, but they do expect and value integrity, principles, commitment, and courage. A frazzled employee who is balancing work and home schooling wants to know the person leading the company appreciates them and will be flexible enough to allow them to solve problems without unnecessary restrictions.

Amanda FoxThe evolving leadership role in healthcare

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