The rise of local influencers in health systems

Healthcare has become increasingly complex with large national systems consolidating and technology making it easier to access care.

As healthcare enterprises grow, who will be the most essential leaders?

"I would characterize those becoming most essential as 'rising star local leaders and influencers'," said David Battinelli, MD, executive vice president and physician in chief at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y. "In an organization as large and complex as Northwell, and in complex healthcare organizations in general, I have always believed that no amount of central leadership could ever compensate for the lack of local leadership."

Northwell specifically targets individuals who lead by influence as their "local leaders," said Dr. Battinelli, and Nortwhell's culture is strong. When everyone from the top executives to the clinicians, frontline workers, technicians, IT teams and janitorial staff believe in the mission, health systems can do great things.

"Local leaders who have enormous influence are the local engine to both execute on aligned goals as well as provide critical, accurate and meaningful local data to the central leadership," said Dr. Battinelli. "We at Northwell invest heavily in developing local leadership."

Thomas Maddox, MD, vice president of digital products and innovation at BJC HealthCare / Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, sees a similar need for strong leaders within the enterprise to set the tone and drive results.

"The command-and-control leader era has passed," he said. "Effective leaders need to create the culture that empowers front-line teams to self-organize and execute their work to support overall goals. Leaders set the vision and the goals, then facilitate their teams' ability to figure out how to get there."

Over the last two years, many large health systems have reorganized their leadership structure to empower local leadership. West Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health named regional COOs to support market presidents and encourage growth within their communities. The COOs are focused on creating "systemness" while ensuring market presidents are accountable for results.

Mike Poore, CEO of Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph, Mo., said the knowledge and experience transfer to new leaders is essential for emerging leaders to grow into their roles.

"In this rapidly changing environment, effective leadership transcends traditional roles, requiring individuals to become influencers who lead with purpose, authenticity and compelling storytelling," he said.

He suggested leaders moderate town halls and record concise video presentations to stay connected with leaders, in addition to more personal connections as well.

"Quick feedback mechanisms like touch base surveys and insights from focus groups help in staying agile and responsive to evolving needs," said Mr. Poore. "Ultimately, success lies in the ability to tell relevant stories that inspire and unite teams towards common goals, driving meaningful progress in an ever-changing landscape."

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