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How Leaders Can Help Other Leaders Succeed

By Veronica Martin, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Division Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive, St. Luke’s Health

June 30, 2023 Posted in: Leadership
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Most health care administrators dedicate their careers to helping patients. What we do on a daily basis to make that happen, however, is lead people—the clinical professionals who care for patients. Leading others requires developing and constantly refining certain essential skills.

The Healthcare Leadership Alliance, comprised of the American College of Healthcare Executives and other professional organizations, has identified five key competencies health care managers should hone. These competencies include:

  • Leadership

  • Communication and relationship management

  • Professional and social responsibility

  • Understanding health and the health care environment

  • Understanding the business of health care

 

At St. Luke’s Health, we want our leaders to be lifelong learners who fulfill our mission by serving and supporting the people they lead. We shape our leaders by incorporating the Healthcare Leadership Alliance’s five core competencies.

Leadership

The first competency, leadership, starts from the top. We model the type of transformational, caring, resilient leaders we want to see throughout our organization—and which the current health care landscape demands. Leading by example is powerful, but it takes much more to hone one’s leadership skills. This also requires organizational investment to ensure our leaders have the skills and support they need to guide others.

Leadership courses of varying levels are available on demand throughout St. Luke’s Health. Our division CEO also hosts a quarterly leadership development day for leaders across the health system, and I convene meetings that bring together our nursing leaders to discuss strategy, recognize and honor team members, and provide insight into the systemwide decision-making process.

Communication and Relationship Management

We help our leaders improve their communication and relationship management skills in a variety of ways, including direct mentoring and coaching of up-and-coming leaders. We encourage dialogue that supports emerging leaders through problem solving and understanding. A wide range of on-demand and in-person, Zoom-based programs are available to help leaders bolster their communication and relationship skills.

When extraordinary situations occur within the health system, we give our leaders the opportunity to learn from them by reviewing what went well, what could have gone better and how they would handle a similar situation in the future. Situational development is a valuable way of shaping and mentoring leaders.

Succession planning is equally valuable. Team members need to know there are clear career pathways for them to move into leadership positions. “How do I move forward in the organization? What are the essential skills I need to do so?” Our leaders work with the people they lead to answer these questions and help them grow in their careers.

Professional and Social Responsibility

We work in a dynamic field and being a lifelong learner is vital to the success and integral to the professional responsibility of every health care leader. When employees return to school to pursue additional degrees, St. Luke’s Health wants to help them achieve their goals. To facilitate continued learning, we offer tuition assistance as part of our employee benefits package.

As a faith-based, mission-driven organization, social responsibility is one of our hallmarks. I’ve worked for several health care organizations during my career, and St. Luke’s Health is, by far, the most mission-driven. We put patients at the center of everything we do, which includes supporting healthy communities. We participate in community activities and social awareness focused on key service lines and disease processes. One example is our advocacy for heart disease awareness through support of local American Heart Association events.

St. Luke’s Health is committed to diversity and inclusion. Many of our leaders are active in national, regional and local associations that support our mission of assisting vulnerable patients.

Understanding Health and the Health Care Environment

Health care leaders should be fluent in our field. How can one lead, after all, without understanding the environment in which we operate?

To facilitate deep understanding of health care among our leaders and team members, St. Luke’s Health engages in transparent communication and dialogue across the health system. Regular newsletters and other routine communications inform and educate our teams about the state of health care and our organization, and where both are headed.

Understanding the Business of Health Care

Becoming a well-rounded, competent leader requires fluency in both the clinical and financial sides of health care, which brings us back to the importance of lifelong learning. At St. Luke’s Health, our new leader onboarding procedure includes education in some of the essential competencies of financial management. This is as important as the other skills we foster in our leaders, such as effective communication and team member mentorship. 

Our focus on financial management skills doesn’t cease when onboarding concludes. We continue to develop these competencies through ongoing training, routine communications and annual performance reviews.

Support Your Source of Strength

In ways big and small, St. Luke’s Health is committed to the professional development of our leadership team. We’re only as strong as the staff who care for patients every day—and the leaders who support their work.

I would advise any health system to invest in your people, especially the people on the front lines of care and their leaders. Invest in developing and mentoring your leaders, and be transparent in your communications with them. Most of all, ensure your organization’s mission guides everything you do

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