Skills Healthcare Leaders Need to Succeed


In a field that is continuously changing and growing, skilled leadership in healthcare that can not only manage, but prosper, through those challenges is vital. Yet, according to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), there is a gap in healthcare leadership. Where do healthcare leaders need to improve?

Able to Motivate Team

The essence of leadership is getting your team to follow your lead and work as a whole towards success. According to the CCL’s research, leaders in the healthcare sector must be able to lead employees and work in teams, ultimately creating an organizational culture of collaboration.

The report also states that a more participative managerial style should get the best results, since it focuses on the exchange of ideas and building consensus between the team to build relationships within the team to drive empowerment and commitment. Treat your team with respect and understanding while guiding them to align their goals with those of the organization.


Perhaps the most important skill and tool, no matter what field or role, is communication. No one can succeed without it, but it is increasingly necessary in healthcare as the field is driven more and more by data. Information sharing must be timely, accurate and clear to ensure that everyone is on the same page—especially when it comes to important decisions and changes.
The Association for Talent Development states that healthcare leaders must have conversations that matter, whether the conversation is short or long, complex or simple. Using clear language and checking that people understand are two ways to ensure effective communication.


On the other end of communication is listening. Active listening is instrumental to participative leadership, since it works to not only acknowledge employee concerns and ideas, but also grows mutual respect between leadership and the team. Good leaders know that listening improves job satisfaction and commitment and bolsters success since more people can be heard.


Naturally, clients should be central to your leadership goals since they drive the organization. Working to find the best, easiest and fastest ways to serve them should be a priority for any healthcare leader, writes healthcare consultant Merikay Tillman in Healthcare Finance News. Tillman suggests using a human approach and incorporating care principles in everyday healthcare practice to create better connections with your patients and your team.

Emotional Intelligence & Empathy

Likewise, treating your team with empathy will earn high levels of respect and will be valuable when dealing with stressful situations and conflicts. Though it is sometimes overlooked, emotional intelligence is essential since it forms strong relationships within the organization that lead to better communication and change management. Catalyst NEJM, a thought leadership website for healthcare executives and clinical leaders, states that emotional intelligence is critical for healthcare leaders. The journal also points out that emotional intelligence is also crucial for developing the patient-physician relationship.

Change Management

Change management is critical in any quickly-changing industry, and healthcare sees a lot of it due to market changes, scientific advancements and evolving trends. According to the CCL research, change management is one of the leadership skills ranked most important for success by people in healthcare organizations. Through strategic planning and employee engagement, leadership can create effective change with minimal issues, but leaders must be willing and able to understand employee feelings while promoting the change as ideal for achieving the organization’s—and team’s—goals.

Able to Run Lean

To keep the organization running effectively and smoothly, the question “Is this necessary?” must be asked constantly. According to Beckers Hospital Review, Paula Roe, senior consultant at Simpler Consulting and former VP Operations at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, said that the “ability to drive out waste and variation” is critical for healthcare leaders. Seek continuous improvement by working toward eliminating waste in the organization, decreasing variation in its processes and making it sustainable so that it will last into the future.

Innovation & Vision

Healthcare needs forward thinkers to propel it into the future, so leaders must be able to think differently to accommodate changes and innovations and conceptualize the future. Know where you want to be five, six and 10 years down the road. Catalyst NEJM states that vision should be based on an analysis of technological innovations, scientific developments and demographic trends in the field.

Another important component of informing your vision is consulting with your team and hearing out their ideas. Tillman writes that “your front line will be the best go-to people for insight on positive change that will impact business performance.”

Systems Thinking

Finally, healthcare leaders must see beyond the silos and sub-processes within a single organization to gain an overall perspective of the entire healthcare system. Healthcare leaders should guide collaboration and cooperation between departments, according to the Association for Talent Development.

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