Five Traits Can Help Healthcare Leaders Prepare for an Uncertain Future

Medical and administrative personnel

In an article published in the American College of Healthcare Executives’ (ACHE’s) Chief Executive Officer, two health management experts from the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health shared their advice on how healthcare leaders can develop competencies for an uncertain future.

The article expands upon a well-received talk that Leonard Friedman, PhD, FACHE and Wayne Psek, MD, PhD gave at the ACHE’s annual meeting in 2018.

“An important truism in healthcare is that change is the only constant,” they write. “If healthcare executives are going to flourish in the years to come, senior leaders should start now to strategically develop a workforce capable of navigating today’s and tomorrow’s changing environment.”

The five leadership competencies that they recommend healthcare leaders develop are:

Emotional and social intelligence, including the five key elements to emotional intelligence: knowing one’s emotions, managing those emotions, motivating oneself, recognizing emotions in others, and handling relationships.

Thinking big picture in terms of systems by creating organizations where the hardened walls of operational silos are transformed into “semipermeable membranes” that allow for the free flow of information and best practices between parts of the organization.

Change management and realizing that when encountering change everyone is giving up something. Effective managers ensure that staff are given a compelling reason for change, a clear sense of hope and optimism for the outcome, and adequate time to integrate changes into their routine.

Adaptability to chaos and complexity by stepping away, when possible, from trying to over-control their healthcare organizations, which can sometimes be chaotic and complex. Instead, they recommend putting into practice simple rules that apply throughout the organization and consistently following them.

Open-mindedness and introspection are important assets for healthcare leaders because the future will bring new ways of experiencing the world around us, disrupting our models of the way the world works. Self-reflection is a necessary competency to understand one’s values, biases, and mental models, Friedman and Psek say.

Developing Leadership Competencies for an Uncertain Future” is published in ACHE’s Chief Executive Officer newsletter.