Maybe more than any other job, leadership skills are essential in healthcare. And with the challenges and the opportunities facing leaders of healthcare organizations constantly changing, the leadership skillset they’ll need to continue to find success is changing, too. With that in mind, here’s a new list of essential leadership skills in healthcare as we head into 2024.
Why Utilize Leadership Skills in Healthcare
Every decision made by healthcare leaders, from ensuring safe nurse staffing to regulatory compliance, impacts a variety of your facilities’ stakeholders. Moreover, such decisions guide the actions of clinicians and caregivers, determine the availability of services and specialists, and even help decide patient outcomes.
As healthcare leadership, you make the decisions that guide and, ideally, benefit your employees and patients alike. And you often must do it on the fly, in rapidly-changing and high-stress situations. Therefore, actively developing and improving the leadership skills underlying these healthcare decisions helps ensure you continue to provide the best possible value to your facilities, organization, and patients you serve daily.
Essential Leadership Skills in Healthcare
It’s true that each leader’s specific responsibilities will depend on where they work, who they work with, and many other factors — maybe even the day of the week. All the same, there are some universal skills that healthcare leadership should utilize to meet the growing demands of 2024.
Valuable not just for healthcare leaders but for professionals in general, communication serves as the foundation for almost every other leadership skill. It’s essential for teamwork, delegation, engagement, and many other aspects of leading others — including the ability to express yourself clearly.
Listening goes hand-in-hand with communication. As a healthcare leadership, it’s critical to know and understand the people around you to lead them effectively. Active listening, or giving someone your full attention, helps ensure the wellbeing of your team and each individual worker. It can also drive morale and positive workplace culture by letting people feel like they’re truly being heard.
Compassion is a must-have leadership skill in healthcare due to trends such as the increase in nursing shortage. Today, anxiety are frustration are common in the healthcare workplace. Subsequently, over 100,000 nurses are estimated to have the workforce since COVID-19.
Understanding these emotions, and how and why your team may be dealing with them, helps inform decision making. It also improves your ability to engage employees, resolve conflicts, and forge the bonds and relationships that make great teams.
#4: Emotional Intelligence
As such, providing effective empathy and compassion requires emotional intelligence, or the ability to gain understanding from social and cultural cues. Emotional intelligence skills helps ensure that you correctly interpret communication (ex. texts, IMs and other digital messages). Developing this critical leadership skill in healthcare also helps you correctly read important signs like body language and tone of voice in times of crisis.
#5: Relationship Development
Leaders work closely with a variety of professionals in the clinical, administrative, and executive spheres, among others. It’s also important to forge and maintain relationships outside of the company, including investors and vendors. Whether on LinkedIn, the conference circuit, or breakroom, leaders should find and pursue opportunities to bond with other professionals.
#6: Team Building
Relationship building is also central to team building—i.e., the ability to get those you lead to work together effectively. That includes not just meeting goals and KPIs but doing so with harmony and mutual respect. Team-building skills also help leaders resolve conflict in a way that furthers their goals.
Building relationships also helps you better understand everyone’s abilities, weak spots, and red flags. And you’ll need that info to effectively delegate duties to them. Matching each person’s talents to the specific work they carry out keeps projects on time and within budget. It also gives you the bandwidth you need to focus on other leadership priorities.
One way to ensure the strength of your team is by taking on mentorship duties. Especially for junior members like interns and new hires, providing foundational guidance as a mentor helps improve performance — not just for them, but the entire team. Mentorship takes many forms; letting your team know that you’re open to proposals is a good place to begin.
#9: Supporting Professional Development
As with mentorship, the chance to gain on-the-job career development opportunities has become an expectation among many clinical workers. Leaders who provide access to professional development or continuing education (CE) courses ensure that their core workers stay licensed and certified. It can also provide improve motivation, job satisfaction, and the entire team’s core capabilities.
#10: Self-Awareness / Self-Improvement
As healthcare leadership, actively developing yourself also demonstrates your ability to improve the skills you use to do your job. And that can serve as a source of inspiration for those you lead to do the same. In addition, an important tool in building a culture of success through professional development is by setting a good example.
Automation and healthcare AI are at the heart of industry today, marking technology skills one of the top leadership skills for leaders. From getting the best use from your EHR to leveraging innovations in automation for better workforce management, understanding the full potential of the technology your organization uses will give you a distinct advantage in meeting your biggest goals.
#12: Industry Knowledge
More and more, it takes in-depth industry knowledge to solve many of today’s most urgent challenges. Updated CMS requirements, new staffing models and technology, changes to staffing ratios — all have a direct impact on your bottom line. And the skill needed to understand and integrate them into a larger strategy isn’t just important but essential.
Pro Tip: Stay updated with Healthcare Staffing Insights and guides for facility leaders.
Ethics has been baked into the healthcare industry for thousands of years. For healthcare leadership, ethical skills involve successfully ensuring positive outcomes and the safety of patients and staff. For administrators, it also means managing budgets honestly and effectively, and keeping each facility as safely staffed as possible.
The success with which you adhere to your ethical commitments contributes to your integrity, or the quality of your conduct in the eyes of others. Projecting a trustworthy image that people can respect goes far toward how readily and effectively they follow your lead.
#15: Decision Making
As regulatory changes such as proposed CMS staffing ratios loom, leaders’ decisions impact not only their teams but also the patients, residents, families, and communities they serve. Instinct certainly helps some leaders with decision making. Others, though, may find it worth their while to actively work on developing this important healthcare leadership skill.
#16: Critical Thinking
Making the right decision often depends on your capacity for critical thinking — the ability to process, apply and understand all the available data. This skill helps you understand every decision available to you at any given time. It also helps you grasp the pros and cons of each, and anticipate any contingencies that could arise.
#17: Problem Solving
The ability to create new solutions on the fly, problem solving applies critical-thinking and decision-making skills toward a specific challenge. Essential for coping with crisis-level events and fast-changing situations, problem solving is also inherently difficult, often presenting leaders with situations that may have no precedent or easy solution — as we all learned during the recent global pandemic.
Especially during a crisis management situation, success as healthcare leadership depends on your skill and ability to inspire others to follow you. Doing that requires showing confidence — not just in your decision, but also the ability of your team to carry it out.
It takes agility skills to successfully and simultaneously carry out the many duties as healthcare leadership. In addition, some of these skills must be carefully balanced with one another — for example, team building, delegation and relationship building. Ultimately, agility in thought, behavior, and execution is necessary to truly succeed at the demanding job of healthcare leadership.
Leadership Skills in Healthcare: Comprehensive Workforce Solutions
Another key leadership skill in healthcare is knowing when to enlist expert help! At CareerStaff, we specialize in providing everything healthcare employers need to meet their workforce needs. Contact us today to learn more about how our Joint Commission-Certified solutions can help you meet your goals, or request staff now.