Top 4 Ways Healthcare Executives Can Be Better Leaders

October 26, 2018

Good leaders don’t just rely on one managerial style-they get the best out of every team member by meeting their needs.

Good managers are defined by their employees’ performance and know how to get the best out of every team member.

At a recent AMCP Nexus talk, Patty Taddei-Allen, PharmD, MBA, BCACP, BCGP, director of outcomes research at WellDyneRx, outlined strategies for leading a team successfully. She stressed that leadership isn’t a static thing-it requires managers to continually adapt to their employees needs and behaviors.

Here are four tips for helping you get the most out of your team.

1. Hire right

Even the best manager could do very little with a bad team. That’s why hiring is a vital part of a team-building strategy.

Taddei-Allen said that one area managers should focus on is a potential employee’s soft skills. She said that, while still very important, great resumes or perfect clinical skills mean little next to a person’s ability to relate to people-whether that be patients or colleagues.

She highlighted several skills employers should look for:

  • Communication skills, which involve the obvious verbal skills shown in an interview, but also include written skills (e.g., if this person sends an email, will it be easily understood or will it require time-wasting clarification?).
  • Basic persuasion skills, which allow team members to receive and transmit information in a timely and relatable way.
  • Listening skills, which include negotiation and body language, making other team members feel important.

The final, and perhaps most important soft skill according to Taddei-Allen, is empathy. Empathy, she said, is the ability to build trust among team members. A team member who sees only his or her own personal agenda will bring down team morale and create a poor work environment.

2. Know what skills you need

Certain personality traits make for a good leader. Not only is this important for hiring potential leaders, it’s also important to recognize what category you fall into. Tadei-Allen discussed the Big Five model of personality, which can be summarized by the acronym OCEAN.

  • Openness: Creative, accepting of new and nontraditional ideas.
  • Conscientiousness: Extremely reliable, motivated to get things done.
  • Extroversion: Outgoing, good with relationships.
  • Agreeableness: Tend to defer to others, a people-pleaser.
  • Neuroticism: Prone to worry or have anxiety.

When groups of leaders were surveyed about the most important traits, respondents agreed that openness and extroversion were the most important traits in a good leader, while they associate agreeableness with poor leadership skills. Interestingly, neuroticism was not significant to them in determining leadership effectiveness.

3. Explain the why to employees

A good team is a motivated team and, according to Taddei-Allen, emotional intelligence is key for creating that motivation. She defined emotional intelligence as the ability to understand others’ feelings while also controlling and understanding your own. Emotional intelligence allows leaders to build the relationships that create good teams.

With a good relationship, leaders can then give employees what Taddei-Allen said is possibly the most important-but often overlooked-aspect of what motivates employees. Good leaders show their employees the “why” of what they are doing, not just the “how” and the “what.”

Do your employees know why their work is important? This may seem easier in a healthcare setting, but do all of your employees know how everything they’re doing is directly helping someone?

Next: The final tip 

4. Manage the individual

Taddei-Allen advocated for the Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX), which posits that successful leaders have individualized, personal relationships with every team member. The research backs this up too-studies have shown that LMX leads to greater employee performance, improved overall job satisfaction, increased commitment to the organization, and greater satisfaction with the supervisor.

LMX is all about catering your managerial style to an individual employee’s needs, with the thinking that not all employees prefer the same style of management. No one style will get the best out of every employee, so good leaders need to be constantly altering their managerial styles to fit a given situation. Some styles might work more often than others, but no style is right for every situation.

Taddei-Allen laid out six leadership styles and briefly discussed their situational benefits:

  • Coercive style: This style demands immediate compliance and is generally the least effective method. However, Taddei-Allen did say this style could be useful in short-term situations, such as a need to turn a project around quickly.
  • Authoritative style: An authoritative leader is good at communicating the “why” by setting goals and providing clear direction. This is one of the most effective styles.
  • Democratic style: This style is useful for building consensus among a team. It also builds excellent team trust as every team member feels he or she has a say. However, this style can also lead to what Taddei-Allen called “analysis paralysis,” or the problem that too much time is spent analyzing a problem so that nothing is accomplished.
  • Affiliative style: This type of leader is a people-pleaser, focused on achieving team harmony and happiness above all else. This style should usually be combined with other styles, and can work especially well with the authoritative style.
  • Pace-setting style: A pace-setting manager will have high performance standards and does not hesitate to cut team members who can’t live up to those standards. While this strategy generally leads to some poor morale, Taddei-Allen did say that there are some employees who actually thrive on this increased pressure, citing an example of one poor performing employee of hers who was having trouble getting work done but when was managed more closely with this style became very productive.
  • Coaching style: Coaching is all about helping employees to find their strengths. Many managers, Taddei-Allen said, only use this style during performance reviews-but good leaders should use it throughout the year to bring out the best in their employees.

Taddei-Allen also added that many managers prefer to manage the way they would like to be managed themselves, but that good management requires flexibility and an effort to understand what your team members need.