10 reasons healthcare leaders fail and how to prevent them

Healthcare systems are often larger, more complex and uniquely more challenging to govern than organizations in other industries, and various external forces driving change in healthcare today are also changing the demands of leading a healthcare organization.

These pressures have forced the industry refocus and redefine the necessary qualities of its leaders, according to the Select International whitepaper "Failure is not an option — a more deliberate approach to healthcare leader selection and development."

Historically, senior leadership selection in healthcare focused almost exclusively on academic qualifications, as well as clinical and technical skills. More recently, other qualities such as collaboration, innovation, empathy and adaptability have received more attention in the leadership selection and development process. Notably, many senior healthcare leaders fail because of behavioral deficiencies that could have been identified and addressed during the selection and development process, according to the report.

Physician integration, consolidation, reimbursement, population health and understanding patients as consumers are some of the many complex challenges leaders are confronting today. However, without high-level influence, consensus and coalition-building competencies, healthcare leaders will find achieving successful management of these challenges extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Nearly 40 percent of new CEOs fail within their first 18 months on the job, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, and turnover in the C-suite is at an all-time high (nearly 20 percent). Citing to the Harvard Business Review, Select International says the least effective leaders:

1. Accept their own mediocre performance.

2. Don't walk the talk.

3. Don't learn from mistakes.

4. Lack clear vision and direction.

5. Lack energy and enthusiasm.

6. Have poor judgement.

7. Don't collaborate.

8. Resist new ideas.

9. Lack interpersonal skills.

10. Fail to develop others.

According to Select International, the most ineffective leaders are often unaware they have these behavioral weaknesses, consequentially preventing them from changing. However, there are ways to identify these shortcomings during the selection process through a sound interviewing system and leadership style assessments.

A strong approach to leadership selection includes first identifying the specific leadership competencies important to the organization, followed by determining how these competencies fit the organization's current situation, challenges and the specific position being filled, according to the report.

After leaders are carefully selected, it is equally important to provide them with effective and tailored leadership development training. Training initiatives are often designed as "one size fits all" and wrongly assume teaching the same skills or leadership style is appropriate for all leaders regardless of the strategy and culture specific to their organization. Instead, understanding the individual strengths and weakness of each leader and incorporating these into tailored development plans is a more effective training strategy, according to the report.

An effective leadership development program, as outlined by Select International, includes:

1. A program participant selection process.

2. Traditional learning combined with projects that demand complex collaboration across departments, focusing on real challenges the organization is facing.

3. Individual development tasks focused on improving identified behavioral challenges.

4. Program effectiveness evaluation including participant career progress and department or business unit performance metrics, if possible.

More articles on leadership:
Accelerating the Peter Principle in Healthcare - Unintentionally
Scottsdale Lincoln Health Network has a new name
CXO roundtable: Bringing it back to the patient

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