Executive Health Administration

Leadership Skills for Highly Effective Hospital Boards

[fa icon="calendar'] May 8, 2017 11:31:08 AM / by EMHA Blog

For healthcare organizations to exceed, hospital boards must enlist skilled and fearless leaders


In many respects, the qualities found in a highly functional hospital governing board or a consummate healthcare board member are no different from those in other non-profit orcorporate environments.

The leadership skills, collaborative mindset, decision-making ability, passionate drive and knack for building relationships that are so fundamental to success are universal.

The differences, then, are often situational. Certainly, the healthcare field underwent a major transformation with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

As a result, as noted by USC Sol Price professor Carol J. Geffner, Ph.D in an article on Trustee Governance, the boards of health care systems and hospitals found themselves being held to higher standards and working within a structure defined by new strategic and financial parameters.

And with the new administration of President Donald Trump, the playing field certainly will continue to evolve, requiring boards and their members to be responsive, proactive and ever agile in their actions.

4 Qualities of Transformational Leaders

A popular term and theory of today is “transformational leadership.” As outlined in a piece for Psychology Today, leaders who showcase this valuable attribute are adept at transforming others, motivating and working with them to raise their performance level – and, in the process, developing new and stronger leaders.

An umbrella skill certainly welcome within a hospital governing board, transformational leadership comprises four traits:

  1. Idealized Influence, in which the leader is seen as an admirable role model, primarily for their positive actions and absence of hypocrisy;

  2. Inspirational Motivation, the charismatic ability to push and lift others to do great things;

  3. Individualized Consideration, taking leadership to a personal level of caring, using empathy, understanding and dedicated attention to elicit better performance; and

  4. Intellectual Stimulation, instilling a never-ending challenge to others for innovation and creativity.

Hospital boards that follow governance best practices and diverse leaders succeed

Future of Healthcare Leadership

The American Hospital Association delivered a report on future leadership competencies and declared that board membership needs to be broad and strong in multiple critical areas in today’s world to truly lead:

  • Is there a deep understanding of health insurance and risk management?

  • Is there expertise regarding information technology?

  • Does the board composition reflect the community in terms of diversity of population?

Beth Ingram, former senior vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, wrote in Trustee magazine about the changes she witnessed in her 36-year career in health care and the characteristics of today’s best board members, including:  

  • An interest in continuous learning (inside and outside the boardroom)

  • A willingness to participate in board discussions and ask tough questions

  • A dedication to supporting the organization financially and actively recruiting other donors

Rural hospitals face some challenges different from those in major metropolitan areas, but many of the qualities most desired for building a better hospital board are the same: the right size and composition, driven board members, and financial savvy.

As professor Geffner implored in her article, healthcare board trustees need to determine how good governance is defined and do everything it takes to develop and utilize the skills required to reflect that in practice.

Download Carol J. Geffner's Article on Trustee Governance

The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy's Online Executive Master of Health Administration program transforms mid-career clinical and management professionals into exceptional healthcare leaders through an innovative, graduate-level educational experience

Topics: Innovative Leadership, Health Policy, Health Care Careers

EMHA Blog

Written by EMHA Blog

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