Professional Development Skills for Healthcare leaders

Times are turbulent and continue to change in the world of healthcare.

Leaders are challenged to guide staff into uncertain territory with confidence and skill. The problem is that the skills that have gotten them where they are today may not be enough to move them forward into the next five to ten years.

In order to help our clients and leaders, we’ve compiled a list of six professional development skills that healthcare leaders need to be successful and move forward in their careers, while adding value to their position and their organization.


1. Resourcefulness, Flexibility and Innovation

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, healthcare leaders of the future must be able to think fast, be flexible, and make good decisions under pressure. A leader with these qualities also has determination and grit in the face of challenges, can stand alone but is open to learning from others, and has excellent problem-solving skills.

Leaders of the future will be called upon to come up with or recognize great ideas and facilitate them into reality. This type of leader understands that leadership through inspiration and motivation will encourage the most creativity from his/her team.


2. Change Management

Healthcare workers are starting to suffer from a phenomenon called “change fatigue.” This happens when people feel like they must make too many changes at once. Many organizational changes have unfortunately been rolled out too fast, put in place without sufficient resources, or aren’t sustainable.

Leaders need to ensure that their staff understands the organizational vision and strategic goals. People cannot work together towards a shared goal if they don’t know what it is or don’t understand what it will take from them. They may need to understand why this change initiative is different than others in the past, so communication will be crucial.

Once they have the training and knowledge about the changes taking place, a leader must empower them to find their way to solve challenges that come up. Above all, a leader who is managing change must be a role model. Staff is observing the leader’s behavior, so when things are not going as planned, a leader must embody the vision and mission and keep the group focused on moving forward.


3. Communication

Communication is one of the most crucial leadership traits in healthcare. A healthcare leader must clearly define and communicate the organization’s strategic vision and goals, be a good listener, and take input from others. Andrew Garman stresses the importance that a leader must challenge herself/himself to seek out and be fully vulnerable to feedback from colleagues about their communication and relationship management skills.


4. Understanding of Technology

Technological development in clinical applications is an important trend in healthcare and it will continue to expand. The first objective for leaders, according to is to face their fears about technology and embrace the possibilities. Healthcare trackers, wearables and sensors already help patients manage their weight, or sleep, but in the future, patients will be able to send information to their doctor’s offices through similar devices. Technology is also a great way to streamline business processes, which is one of the main reasons healthcare has moved towards utilizing contingent labor.

Leaders need to stay open, informed and keep reading and collecting information and encouraging their staff to do the same. Technology can help them do that by working smarter, not harder, so they can use their valuable time on the more important aspects of their role.


5. Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is the capacity to identify, assess and manage one’s own emotions as well others’. It is a skill that leads to superior performance in the workplace and especially helps leaders develop a very important competency known as empathy. Emotional intelligence is important in the healthcare arena because it’s such a high stress environment full of interpersonal interactions between staff and staff, patients and staff and interdisciplinary teams. Therefore, it is crucial for a leader to stay open to perceiving emotions, understanding emotions, and using and managing emotions for themselves as well as their staff.

Talentsmart studied people at work and found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money – an average of $29,000 more per year! The good news is that emotional intelligence can be developed.


6. Understanding of Generational Diversity

For the first time ever, there are four generations in our workforce. Jamie Notter, talks about generational diversity in the workplace and describes the four generations as: The Veterans who were born between 1925 and 1945, the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, Generation X born between 1965 and 1980 and the Millennials, born between 1981 and 2000. This generational diversity affects how an organization deals with change, team building, productivity and patient care.

Each generation has been through important life events at critical developmental stages of their lives. These events create shared filters through which they see the world. For example, the Veterans lived through WWI and WWII and suffered the Great Depression. They embrace a more military type of management style. Baby Boomers are very team oriented and their work equals their sense of self-worth. Millennials value work-life balance and are known as “digital natives” since they are the first generation to grow up completely with technology.

Leaders will be called upon to lead their staff through negative generational stereotypes by listening, staying aware of the generalized differences among their staff, and promoting effective communication between the generations.


A final word:

It is important to remember that healthcare is a business as well as a relationship-based industry. As such, healthcare leaders deal with the bottom line, but they also work with patients who come to them at their most vulnerable times. They also work with employees who may be going through stressful situations, which is why leaders must stay engaged at every level. They must know how to connect with staff, patients, families, and the outside community.

As the Bishop T.D. Jakes once said “The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning you go to school.”


Want to learn more?  Check out CareerStaff’s additional Healthcare Leadership articles.

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