Woman's Hospital CEO Terri Fontenot names 7 key traits of transformative leaders

As the challenges healthcare organizations face change, so must their leaders. Today is an exciting but tumultuous time in healthcare, and to be as effective as possible for their organizations, patients and other constituents, hospital and health system leaders must be prepared to adapt to uncertainty and adversity.

"The essence of leadership is having the ability to alter what people think is possible, convince them that effort would be worth it and show them how it was their idea all along," Teri Fontenot, president and CEO of Baton Rouge, La.-based Woman's Hospital, said during the Becker's Hospital Review's 6th Annual Meeting in Chicago. "When people believe their idea is possible, it becomes unstoppable. To get this kind of alignment is key for success today."

Leaders today must be receptive to the forces that are transforming the healthcare industry, and the characteristics of effective leaders have evolved in the recent years to reflect this need. According to Ms. Fontenot, in the past, great leaders were characterized as having can-do attitudes with a focus on performance and short-term goals. Later on, the most essential attributes of effective leaders were the ability to inspire and motivate others. They also began to embrace experimentation and more readily included others in the decision-making process.

Today, the best leaders are transformative. According to Ms. Fontenot, they are disruptive innovators who articulate the future state of their organization and involve every stakeholder. They continuously display enthusiasm and conviction and are unafraid to take action in the unknown.

Here are seven key traits of transformative healthcare leaders today, according to Ms. Fontenot.

1. They are passionately curious. While they are rarely the smartest person in the room, they are the most inquisitive.

"It is the relentless questioning that helps them identify new opportunities," said Ms. Fontenot. "They ask why and why and why. If there is a better way to do something, they ask questions so they can learn from everyone in the room and together create a vision and strategy that is unique and logical for the organization."

2. They understand that we live in a fishbowl. Being a leader is a 24-hour-day, seven-day-a-week, 365-days-a-year job. According to Ms. Fontenot, transformative healthcare leaders are those who address immediate, practical concerns against the backdrop of the chaos occurring in the world and communicate clear messages to everyone.

3. They see the world through a telescope to look into the future and a microscope to scrutinize the challenges of the present. The lens of the telescope gives transformative leaders a vision of where the organization should be. It is a chance to see the big dreams they have for their organization, while the microscope enforces a critical perspective. According to Ms. Fontenot, the microscope metaphor is meant to enforce the need to stay in touch with frontline workers and clinicians and make sure they are involved in decisions, as they will ultimately be the force driving the organization.

"We are usually more comfortable with one lens, but we must be able to see clearly through both to manage the shift with ease and timeliness," Ms. Fontenot said.

4. They are able to toil in obscurity. Transformative leaders have "team smarts," according to Ms. Fontenot. They understand how teams work and how to get the most out of them, and importantly, when the team is successful they fade into the background and give credit instead of taking credit.

5. They keep it simple. Whether they are developing a plan or articulating a vision, transformative leaders keep it clear and concise, and avoid words with ambiguous meanings.

6. They exude charisma. According to Ms. Fontenot, one of the most essential traits of a transformative leader is how they interact with and treat others. Transformative leaders listen more than they talk and treat the person speaking like they are the only one in the room. They give praise and offer constructive feedback often, and are transparent and honest. Most importantly, they admit their mistakes, accept responsibility and grant others as much autonomy as possible.

7. They have a high tolerance for risk. Transformative leaders, by definition, must be risk takers. "Being too conservative can be the death of the organization," said Ms. Fontenot. "Maintaining the status quo or being too paralyzed to act will lead to missed opportunities. On the other hand, transformative leaders seek new opportunities even when things are not broken."

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars