We should remember that the overwhelming majority of patients will rarely be interested in organizations’ grand plans and strategies, being more concerned about the day-to-day running of the services they use. In an increasingly complex world, however, meeting these demands for efficient and effective care grows ever more challenging. Consequently, the field of leadership and management in healthcare grows even tougher.
While the underlying principles of good leadership and management remain the same, how these must be applied, and developed is changing rapidly. Though the case studies in this report span four continents and organizations of widely varying size and history, they all display a number of shared features that are universally applicable.
The importance of rooting development in organizational context is an important theme in the case studies. The challenge here is to ensure that the problem to be fixed is properly understood before embarking on a solution. Organizations must also make an effort to stimulate, engage and entertain through development, and nothing maintains interest more than feeling that the scheme is actually helping them address their current operational and strategic challenges.
Relationship building, coaching and the use of colleagues for support and mentoring is also an important approach for the organizations in the case studies. This reflects the fact that at its root management and leadership are interpersonal.
Each of the organizations demonstrate a visible, long term commitment to developing their people. Leadership development rarely offers a quick fix, requiring sustained organizational and personal effort over time: perspiration as well as inspiration. This is especially true if many of the underlying challenges are systemic, such as recruitment difficulties or a tight economic environment.
The good news is that leadership can be practiced. Healthcare managers and leaders will continually find themselves in situations where they are having to have difficult conversations, respond to a crisis or lead a change project. Far from distractions to development – these are the ideal times to do it. Repetition and guided reflection are the bedrock of almost all behavioral change. No modern healthcare organization is short on opportunities to drive improvement through their daily work and to enhance their skills. What differentiates the best is that this isn’t left to chance, but is supported and directed.