Ask an executive or manager in any organization how important leadership is and you’re likely to hear a resounding affirmative answer. But just how important strong management is can be surprising when you crunch the numbers. For example, in project management alone, those with strong skills outperform others by 50 percent.
According to Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, leadership is key to fixing the problems in healthcare, but getting the right kinds of leaders going forward, with the necessary mix of skills, will take work and innovation.
For example, medical schools are rethinking their selection process. Mount Sinai is actively bringing in humanities majors, having found that they do no worse than traditional pre-med track students and bring a greater ability to relate to and communicate with patients. The school doesn’t even require these students to take the MCAT.
Similarly, Kirch said that the MCAT has been “drastically redesigned” to address not only biological and natural sciences, but also critical reasoning and social sciences. Medical schools will increasingly emphasize leadership and communication skills to help mold physicians who can change the institutions in which they practice.
“We’re thinking about a situational judgment pre-med version test and a situational judgment test pre-residency, which would give you another tool, something other than [USMLE] step 1 scores, to use when you screen medical school applicants for residency programs,” Kirch said.
A further step is in evidence at a Portland, Maine non-profit, the Daniel Hanley Center for Health Leadership. The organization runs leadership programs for healthcare professionals, including “strategic decision-making, financial business skills, team-building skills and health care trends.” Again it is affirmed that to lead healthcare, individuals must have the proper tools and skills, and they extend far beyond the sometimes narrow considerations of medical practice alone.
“Relationships are key,” said Judiann Ferretti Smith, a 2009 graduate of the Hanley Center’s Health Leadership Development program and the organization’s incoming executive director. “Maine is a small state. You can’t get anything done without trust and relationships.”
But relationships aren’t only important in small states. If leadership is anything, it is the practice of relationships. As President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
The industry cannot continue to use old approaches, which will only provide the same results as they always have. New approaches to recognize leadership as something independent and worth studying will become critical if healthcare organizations are to move successfully into the future.
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