Leadership has always been of utmost significance and shall always be so. Irrespective of the past history, present scenarios or upcoming future; leadership is what often defines an era, creates a movement and manages to let a successful story unfold.
Healthcare is constantly getting more and more complex and challenging for medical professionals to navigate through. This further demands an efficient leader who can adapt to changing dynamics of a hospital business model while successfully evolving the required skill set. For a healthcare organisation to stay effective and successful, a leader with a unique set of skills is required. Clinical skills, business competencies, and interpersonal skills constitute an effective healthcare leader.
There are various ways in which being a healthcare leader differs from being a leader in any other industry. At the outset, if one looks at the demanding health industry, it has many variables to it.
To begin with, the healthcare industry has a major technical aspect to it comprising the medical and the nursing part. It has a hospitality aspect which is the front office, billing and the rooms, and a quality aspect as we are dealing with human lives. Therefore, the attributes of a healthcare leader differ from what it takes others to become leaders in diverse industries.
Technical knowledge: Whether it makes a doctor a better leader or not; a thorough knowledge and appreciation of the technical aspects is extremely important. The knowledge of the health industry is crucial and therefore an understanding of the varieties of specialties, their composition and understanding of the qualifications and capabilities of the doctors, the ability to measure clinical outcomes are all import attributes of a healthcare leader.
Finance: A thorough knowledge of understanding costs is crucial. Costs in healthcare is the bane of the industry and can make or break of a healthy organisation. Managing costs is like walking on an extremely tight rope and this needs to be appreciated, understood and thoroughly digested by all healthcare leaders. In addition, the working and understanding of the P&L, the various aspects on which revenues can be optimised in an industry that deals with sick people is indeed an attribute that would require fine tuning even with the best of B-School’s information and knowledge.
Human Resources: Dealing with people is the next attribute that is very important. While arguably this is true for any industry, in healthcare you are dealing with people who are working in an environment which is in the midst of anger, sorrow, joy and a mixed emotion that is a composite human behaviour exercise. Therefore, the stress levels of healthcare workers being high, understanding of how and what needs to be done for employee engagement, ensuring their comfort levels and keeping the team together, enabling them to flourish in this atmosphere is indeed another attribute.
Administration: There is a need to acquire knowledge and information about engineering and the front desk. While a person may not be an expert, common sense understanding of these areas is indeed very important.
So I would say that a healthcare leader has to be an amalgam of many faces… a physician’s face or a clinical face, a hotelier’s face which means that he has to understand the importance and efficiencies that are based on customer care but also about food and beverages, rooms upkeep, building upkeep, etc. He should also have technical knowledge to the extent required of engineering. One also needs to know finance and a thorough understanding of how the healthcare industry and the insurance industry works.
It is wise for a healthcare leader to interact with industry, government officials, statutory bodies and understand the long-term health aspirations of the nation. Healthcare is indeed a national priority and in keeping with that one has to work irrespective of whether you are in a field of “for profit” or “not for profit”.