Executive Health Administration

Audacity to Shape the Future: 3 Lessons in Healthcare Leadership

[fa icon="calendar'] Sep 11, 2015 7:30:00 AM / by Anna Montgomery, MPA


The Challenge

"During a strategy planning session, the chancellor stood up and said, 'We know the future is ambiguous and complex, but we need to step up and have the audacity to shape the future. That's what good leaders do.' It reminded me of the significance of the lasting impact we can make through our planning efforts to improve health and well-being." Tomi Ryba said in a Becker’s Hospital Review article on leadership advice from CEOs.

As someone working in or considering a career in the ever-changing field of health administration you need courage and boldness to lead your organization or team into the future. In addition to the wisdom from prominent CEOs here are 3 brief but vital lessons to keep in mind when considering your role as leader. They are courage, connection, and context.

1. Courage

Navigating a ship through the seas of healthcare reform and changing markets can unfold like an invigorating adventure or a terrifying, seasick inducing trek through shark-infested waters. A captain that spreads panic about the ship sinking isn’t likely to instill confidence in the crew. Ship crews far from home still need to abide by a code of ethics, have a vision for their future, and trust that by working together they’ll make it back home. Research has shown that leaders need courage, not just to face the unknowable future, but also so they can hold fast to values and vision even when the seas are rough. As Kathleen Reardon demonstrates in her Harvard Business Review article, “courageous action is really a special kind of calculated risk taking”. In leadership, you prepare to be bold by setting goals, weighing the costs and benefits, choosing the right time, and having a backup plan.

2. Connection

The rising tide of scholarship consensus is toward emotional intelligence as a vitally important leadership skill. Life is an adventure and we’re in it together. Tensions can escalate on the high seas. A leader with strengths in the attributes of emotional intelligence: self and social awareness, and self and relationship management, have a distinct advantage. Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of “Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence,” outlines these competencies in his New York Times article. Self-awareness is about generating emotional insight, knowing your strengths, and knowing when to rely on the strengths of others. Self-management has its foundation in resilience and emotional balance. Understanding ourselves helps us connect with others. Social awareness involves our ability to listen and demonstrate empathy towards others, which builds trust and strengthens relationships. Goleman also emphasizes that relationship management involves strong communication skills and the ability to put others at ease.

3. Context

While the allure of far distant shores fulfills a desire for adventure it’s important that leaders don’t loose sight of their purpose while sailing the seven seas. In healthcare this means maintaining a focus on patient engagement and satisfaction. Understanding your leadership role in context can keep you focused on the mission of the organization. This focus translates into clarity of expectations and honest communication from your leadership team. As Kerry Healy puts forth in her Fortune article, a great leadership team can provide important feedback to the leader, offering advice, analysis, and perspectives. Avoiding groupthink by attracting people with complementary skill sets who are valued for their diverse backgrounds and abilities puts the organization and its environment into broader context. In this way, the leader sees the big picture from multiple vantage points, a clear advantage when charting new waters or facing inevitable storms.

Would you like to learn more about what CEOs have discovered on their travels? Then check out our Adventures in Healthcare Leadership article. Or begin your own leadership adventure by considering an Executive Masters of Health Administration.


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Topics: Innovative Leadership, Transformation

Anna Montgomery, MPA

Written by Anna Montgomery, MPA

Anna Montgomery earned her MPA at USC Price and is pursuing her EdD at USC Rossier.

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