Healthcare leaders today are wrestling with numerous pressing challenges, including high costs, workforce shortages, and technological change. Each of these issues was exposed and made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing leadership teams to adapt quickly to keep their facilities afloat.

The leadership skills needed to handle these challenges are numerous and varied, but many physicians already have many of the core qualities that make them well-prepared to lead. Of course, there are other skills required for effective leadership that might be underdeveloped. For that reason, healthcare leaders should invest in a quality executive leadership program to ensure they properly develop the right skills to best prepare themselves to tackle the next generation of obstacles.

Main challenges facing healthcare leadership teams

High costs

In the U.S., one of the main concerns surrounding healthcare is the high cost of receiving care on the patient end. The average American family spends around $6,000 per year on healthcare, and those are pre-pandemic figures. But it doesn’t end there. Healthcare spending consumes more than 17% of the entire US GDP, putting a massive burden on the taxpayer, too. Healthcare leadership teams are urgently trying to devise ways to lower these costs and make healthcare more affordable.

Workforce shortages

COVID-19 exposed the country’s chronic shortage of healthcare professionals, but this isn’t a new problem. Healthcare leaders have been concerned about workforce shortages for several years now, with one pre-pandemic study finding that there could be a shortage of almost 122,000 physicians by 2032. That shortage has put increased strain on physicians. A range of studies have shown that between 25% and 60% of physicians reported feeling exhaustion on the job.

Each healthcare leader must devise more efficient ways of recruiting and training staff and, more importantly, providing the right incentives to ensure they remain staff.

Technological changes

The emergence of new technologies and patient demands for more sophisticated services has helped make healthcare exceedingly more complex. This was especially true during the pandemic, as virtual care became a staple in most healthcare delivery systems. Healthcare leadership teams must carefully manage the integration of these technologies to ensure minimal disruption to their delivery systems while maintaining a high level of care quality.

The qualities that make a physician a good leader in healthcare

The skills needed to be a good physician don’t automatically translate to good healthcare leadership. That said, there are a number of qualities physicians have that are easily transferable and help create an effective leader. These include:

  • Trust: There is no physician-patient relationship without trust — at least, not a good one. Good physicians are experts at building trust, and it translates well when they need to establish trust among their teams and fellow leaders.
  • Communication: Physicians need strong communication skills to convey diagnoses, treatment plans and other critical health information to patients. The ability to communicate effectively enables the physician leader to articulate their vision, define responsibilities and celebrate successes.
  • People skills: At the end of the day, the above two qualities are possible because physicians are great at developing personal bonds with their patients. This fosters a sense of closeness that generates trust and strengthens the patient-provider relationship. People skills are a critical part of forming and cultivating long-term business, client and team relationships.

Different types of healthcare leadership styles

  • Transactional leadership: This leadership style centralizes the very basic give-and-take relationship that occurs between employees and leaders. Employees take direction from the top and complete tasks that are assigned to them, and, in exchange, they receive salaries and benefits. Transactional leaders use rewards and punishments as the primary motivators.
  • Transformational leadership: The visionaries. These are the leaders that passionately set out a clear vision for the future, inspiring energy and enthusiasm among team members. A transformational leader wants every member of the team to feel a personal stake in leadership so that they feel like the team’s goals and successes are their goals and successes.
  • Servant leadership: Servant leaders put the team above themselves, preferring to lead by example. They make sure every team member is well-equipped with the skills, tools and relationships they need to succeed in their roles. They tend to be good listeners and have high emotional intelligence, and they have a habit of spreading out responsibility fairly.
  • Charismatic leadership: Charismatic leaders depend on their emotional appeal to inspire team members. Their leadership skills include an uncanny ability to develop personal bonds with employees, cultivating a deep sense of trust and camaraderie that motivates them to deliver. The charismatic leadership style is often characterized by a strong sense of loyalty, commitment and devotion.
  • Innovative leadership: You can’t know what you don’t know, and leadership teams must routinely grapple with unpredictable and unforeseeable challenges. Leaders of this style focus on encouraging innovative thinking among their teams to devise novel, creative solutions to new challenges as they arise.

How COVID-19 impacted healthcare leadership

At the risk of overusing the word, the pandemic created an unprecedented crisis for healthcare leaders. They faced an undersupply of qualified professionals, shortages of critical medical equipment, and skyrocketing urgent care needs. Many leaders struggled to keep pace with this demand, and still others found it difficult to provide the same level of quality, timely care.

One of the silver linings of the pandemic was that it demonstrated to healthcare leaders just how bad a crisis can get. Leadership teams must now go back to the drawing board and redesign their care models to ensure better patient outcomes even in the face of a crisis.

Of course, there’s also the business side of things, and this is no less important for leaders to prioritize. The disruption caused by the pandemic, including the cancellation of routine appointments and elective surgeries, dealt a substantial financial blow to healthcare organizations, particularly those already in financial difficulty. Leadership teams now have to find ways to cut costs and boost efficiency while still ensuring quality patient care.

Transform your leadership team with The Bailey Group

Your leaders need to be up to the challenge to do this right. The Bailey Group understands that every leader and leadership team is different. Our coaches focus on each of our clients’ organization’s specific needs and objectives to make sure their leaders are ready to tackle the latest challenges in their industry. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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