Everyone is a leader in healthcare, but so few recognise this as a central component of their role. Picture a new grad nurse paired with an assistant in nursing – they need leadership skills to be able to delegate effectively and build rapport. Maybe envision a 4 year qualified RN working with a student RN, they need to be able to lead, coach and invest in the development of the student nurse. After all they will be our peers in the workforce in years to come! I have always been fascinated by health leadership and the impact that one good/not so good leader can have on a team, impacting the broader organisations goals.
There is no denying it, Leadership is an art form, but it definitely can be “learnt”. From my experience it is something that is performed variably in healthcare, get off to a head start and explore your leadership style.
Here are my top tips to assist any healthcare worker embrace their role as a leader!
- Identify your leadership style and explore the underpinning theory
As you have probably experienced, leadership comes in all different shapes and sizes. There is not a one size fits all, at least until we are taken over by AI and robotic nurses (eek)! Developing an understanding of your unique leadership theory and style is highly recommended. Luckily for you, there are a number of different styles for your to choose from. That said, one particular leadership style is highly recommended in the literature to optimise healthcare teams – Transformational Leadership. So what is Transformational Leadership exactly? Well, transformational leadership is a leadership style in which leaders encourage, inspire and motivate employees to innovate and create change that will help grow and shape the future success of the team/organisation. The info graphic below highlights the four key components of transformational leadership and how the leader achieves each component.
I think you will agree, this style of leadership sounds “Ideal situation” but it truly can be achieved and implemented in the healthcare environment. In exploring leadership styles I would highly recommend remembering one key element, be a leader not a manager and you will be off to an excellent start.
2. Master your communication techniques
The best leaders invest significant time embracing the art of communication, whether that be via email, 1:1, to an audience or on the spot coaching, communication is an essential skill to master. An integral component of communication as a leader, is about really considering the “Why” and how you would like your message to resonate with your colleagues. There are some really awesome communication strategies that can be utilised to improve your interactions with your team, but mostly active listening is a great place to start. TOP TIP: Speak less, listen more.
3. Embrace your inner Coach
Coaching is a powerful medium that should be one of your key strategies as a health leader, allowing you to coach, educate and inspire your staff to achieve greatness. As a Coach you will utilise development techniques that utilise the skills of listening, questioning, clarifying and reframing, and share one-to-one conversations as the main interaction technique in order to enhance an individuals’ skills, knowledge or work performance. The privilege of coaching allows you offer guidance and support based upon your experiences and knowledge to help another make informed decisions. Mostly, coaching involves a significant amount of listening to unpack a challenge that your staff member may be experiencing and providing some impartial feedback/ideas to consider. As a coach, my top tip is to be curious!
4. Positively contribute to building psychological safety in your workplace
“There is no team without trust” commented a google executive. Google among many other high profile organisations have invested significantly in building organisational psychological safety to optimise their performance outcomes. The same applies to healthcare, yet this concept of a “safe team” is not commonly talked about in healthcare, at least in my experience. High performing healthcare teams must foster a psychologically safe environment to be able to improve patient outcomes, staff retention, build culture and achieve the local and organisational vision, values and goals. Psychological Safety is the concept coined by Amy Edmonson, a professor Harvard who noted that “safe teams” simply perform better.
“Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”Amy Edmonson, Professor Harvard
It is vitally important that all staff embrace their role in creating a psychologically safe environment. In healthcare the stakes are high and teams cannot afford to create an environment where people feel scared or worried to bring up issues, new ideas or mistakes. It may be worthwhile taking stock of your workplace. Are you worried about approaching your Team Leader? Or your Manager? Is there someone in your team that doesn’t contribute verbally in meetings? Do they feel safe? Or is there an environment whereby the may be humiliated for speaking up? This really does matter and it is relatively simple to fix. Talk about it. Introduce the concept of psychological safety. Measure it via a survey. Report on it at team meetings and continue to politely address anything that doesn’t fit the psychological safety framework in your workplace. Its also worth noting how you respond to others when they seek your support, guidance or input – those small reactions can help foster or diminish psychological safety depending on your response. For more information there are heaps of videos on Youtube about psychological safety in healthcare. Enjoy!
5. Embrace curiosity and vulnerability
As a leader, I can guarantee you will experience imposter syndrome. Everyone does and I can tell you now, its here to stay. Imposter Syndrome in my opinion is a symptom of past leadership landscape’s whereby the leader “knows everything”. That is never going to be the situation in healthcare – period. With my imposter syndrome thrown into the non clinical waste, I have found embracing curiosity and vulnerability to be extremely powerful. By adopting a curious approach to problems, issues or challenges I am able to role model that “not knowing” is ok, as long as you explore the challenge openly and attempt to rectify the issue at hand. This is a challenging concept, as you may experience people questioning your abilities, however that is on them. If you don’t know – be curious, explore and then act. Vulnerability as a leader is also contradictory to what people perceive of leaders. Being vulnerable as a leader allows your to build authentic relationships with your colleagues, which ultimately builds psychological safety in your team. Being vulnerable means admitting that a new innovation hasn’t quite worked out and then accepting that its ok, it was a learning experience and demonstrating this to your team. In embracing your curiosity and vulnerability, you will demonstrate an honest, authentic approach to leadership – which is invaluable.
“Curiosity is an act of vulnerability and courage. We need leaders to be brave enough to want to get to know more…”Brene Brown, Author
Nows the fun part, seek out opportunities to learn, grow and develop within your unique leadership style and help shape the health system positively. Remember: it only takes one person to shift the culture, everyone 24/7 must play their part to sustain the culture. Set forth and embrace your inner leader!
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