By Pamela J. Gallagher
The need for strong leadership in the healthcare industry has come into stark relief during the pandemic. Good leaders shined, while organizations whose executives were only equipped to deal with the status quo struggled. COVID-19 has tested the abilities and skills of healthcare leaders. The ones who embraced uncertainty, had built strong teams, and lived by their personal and organizational values before the pandemic have led most effectively during this past year.
Great leaders are steady through uncertainty.
By its very nature, healthcare is a series of unplanned events and emergencies—even in non-pandemic times. The leaders that had already developed the skills necessary to lead through uncertainty thrived during the pandemic.
Those who had welcomed the unplanned in the past were able to approach the pandemic as an opportunity to do things differently and embrace innovative ideas in order to serve their patients, communities, and employees. Leaders who had long held themselves accountable for theirs and their organization’s actions and were consistently open to feedback considered the way their hospital and its staff served patients during the pandemic to be their personal responsibility.
Great leaders build great teams.
I have had the privilege of working directly with outstanding leaders in several healthcare organizations. The connection between these great leaders is that they do not think of themselves as great. They attribute success to their teams, and are often dismissive of taking credit for their critical value in leading a successful team and organization.
Leaders that had already developed and invested in strong teams had the best outcomes during the pandemic. They employed everyone’s skills to deal with ongoing uncertainties effectively. Instead of consolidating power, they embraced delegation and recognized the skills and efforts of their colleagues.
Great leaders are dedicated to their organization’s values—and their own.
In times of uncertainty, great leaders help the entire organization keep its values in view. They see challenges as an opportunity to maintain and even strengthen these values and exemplify in new ways their organization’s mission to provide quality, compassionate patient care.
When the pandemic began to spread in the US, healthcare leaders did not have much time to prepare; they just had to respond. At that time, hospitals did not know where their revenue would come from or if there would be government assistance packages. But they knew their mission, and that was to keep caring for patients. The initial concerns about the bottom line were pushed to the bottom of their priority list as many leaders focused on patient care and supporting their clinical staff. Though they recognized the seriousness of their organization’s financial situation, it did not deter them from doing all that was needed to serve their patients and employees.
A year after the onset of the pandemic, healthcare leaders and their teams are truly exhausted. However, the leadership skills and perseverance these leaders have shown are leading to better outcomes for their patients and organizations. The challenges presented in the last year will strengthen their ability to take on the next crisis.
About Pamela J. Gallagher
Pamela J. Gallagher is a senior healthcare finance executive with 20 years of experience balancing the reality of finance with the delivery of excellent patient care. As a consultant she instills financial discipline, streamlines processes to maximize revenue, and reduces expenses for immediate improvements and long-term results. She writes on healthcare, finance, and technology at gallaghersresulting.com.
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