Great leaders recognize early that leadership development in healthcare is not a straight nor smooth path. Like any effective organizational improvement strategy, personal improvement is a lifelong journey. The best leaders are always looking for ways to get better, especially with the organizational recovery challenges that the pandemic has thrown at them.
The journey of introspection in healthcare leadership development can be advanced in many ways, but we’ve found that one question is often a great place to start and continually assess progress:
Who’s the best person I’ve ever worked for, and what did s/he do differently that I want to emulate?
Reading books or attending workshops on healthcare leadership development can be helpful in understanding best practices. But there’s nothing quite like seeing a great leader in action.
How did she make you feel? What specific practices encouraged you to work harder to succeed – both personally and professionally? How did she help you stay and grow with the organization?
What specific behaviors set this leader apart?
The more specific you can be in reflecting on what this leader did well every day, the more helpful this introspective exercise will be. Focusing not just on the what but also on the how and why can be most enlightening.
So, start with the recognition that she was a great communicator, for example. Then, think about why that came to mind. How did she listen? How did she clearly explain complex ideas and put different issues into context? What vehicles and venues did she use to make communication consistent across the team?
The second best question great leaders ask themselves
Close behind thinking about the best person you’ve ever worked for is a question that looks at the other end of the spectrum:
Who is the worst boss I’ve ever worked for, and what did they do that I want to avoid inflicting on my own team?
If you’ve never had a bad boss, you’re in the minority. A Monster global poll in 2016 asked 2,555 employees to rate their boss on a scale from 1 to 5. Nearly one-third said their boss was “horrible.” Half of respondents rated their boss a 1 or 2. Only 15 percent rated their boss as “excellent.”
Introspectively looking back on your own experience with an ineffective boss is enlightening in a different way than just looking at the positive aspects of great leaders. We’ve found that bad bosses are rarely bad people. They simply have not learned, embraced, or sustained the leadership practices that make the workplace one where people want to stay and can be at their very best.
As an employee, we’ve all spent time in a real-life “leadership lab” in the workplace. That should help us as a leader reflect on what works and what doesn’t. Thinking about our experiences working for others can be one of the most powerful ways to self-assess our own leadership practices and styles. Ultimately, contemplating the question, “Am I the kind of leader that I’d want to work for?” may be the best path to personal healthcare leadership development.