Developing Senior Leaders in Health Care

Jody R. Rogers

Q: How do I use The Leadership Challenge to develop senior leaders in the healthcare arena?

A: The Leadership Challenge is an extremely appropriate model for developing leadership skills in administrators and clinicians within healthcare organizations—especially when you keep in mind the unique background and perspective many professionals working in this field bring to the leadership development experience.

Healthcare professionals, especially clinicians, are highly educated with little tolerance for the use of anecdotal information to demonstrate the effectiveness of a new treatment modality. In their work, they are well-grounded in evidence-based medicine and demand to see supporting research when deciding if a new treatment regime is worth trying. Lacking evidence, their willingness to try new forms of treatment is limited at best.

Professionals within the healthcare arena approach leadership development using this same logic. As a result, one of the most successful strategies is to underscore the evidence-based research that supports The Five Practices model.

A significant challenge when teaching healthcare administrators about leadership is in capturing their attention and educating them fully on the important role effective leadership can play throughout the organization. Because The Leadership Challenge is an evidence-based model for practicing leadership—and there is plenty of research to support that claim—it lends itself to being a perfect model for capturing a healthcare professional's attention.

Credibility is important, whether teaching others about leadership or when writing a book about leadership. The fact that The Leadership Challenge is based on over 30 years of research gives this book instant credibility for audience members whose professions are heavily grounded in research.

From my own experience, for example, I had just completed teaching a three-hour leadership block of instruction to 150 young physicians. Several approached me asking about the evidence that supported The Five Practices model. They wanted to be sure that this wasn't just somebody's idea of what leadership meant to them. Instead, empirical proof was what they were after. At first, I was taken aback as I hadn't thought about this model being well-grounded in research. I stumbled through a response until one of the physicians asked for the very best book they could read about leadership that was researched-based. As soon as the question was asked, I knew. I had failed to appeal to the essential element they needed to know. I quickly recovered and explained that this model of leadership was not just the thoughts and experiences of Dr. Posner and Mr. Kouzes but was based entirely on over 25 years of research. I knew then that the next time I was to speak to an audience whose professional participants were trained in the sciences, I had to emphasize evidence-based fundamentals of this model.

In this recent experience of mine, I had forgotten how critical it is to know your audience. For some audiences, The Five Practices model has face validity and stands on its own. It simply makes sense on the surface. For other audiences, face validity is not enough. While the model might make great sense, it is not credible—in and of itself—unless the audience first understands the research supporting it.

The good news is that The Leadership Challenge meets the needs of both audiences—and, in particular, the specialized, science-educated professionals within the healthcare field.

Dr. Jody Rogers is a Professor at Trinity University, Board Certified in Health Administration, and leads the Army Medical Department Execu­tive Skills Program. A Certified Master-in-Training, he also teaches in two graduate programs and speaks nationally on the topic of leadership in healthcare. He can be reached at JODY.ROGERS1@us.army.mil.

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