Getting Beyond Healthcare Management to Leadership

Climbing the corporate ladder, no matter what the industry, has long involved getting exposure to more areas of operations, adding responsibility, entering into a supervisory role, and then scaling the chain of command. There is one problem with this strategy that is particularly bad in modern healthcare: it manufactures managers, not leaders. The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management mentions a number of differences between the roles that Warren Bennis included in his 1989 book, On Becoming a Leader. They include the following:

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

Managers may be acceptable when conditions are stable in an industry and at a company. They can become stewards of the business, ensuring things work as they have in the past. But healthcare is under change, disruption, and pressure to change the way it works. One way of viewing the difference between being a manager and a leader comes from Vineet Nayar, author of Employees First, Customers Second. He suggests that there are three major indicators to show when someone has moved from being a manager to being a leader:

  1. You create value rather than counting it. Managers tend to be busy looking at who contributes value to the organization and how much they have provided. Leaders find ways to help people contribute value. “He or she generates value over and above that which the team creates, and is as much a value-creator as his or her followers are,” Nayar wrote.
  2. Managers create circles of power in which others have to come to them for permission or direction. Leaders, on the other hand, operate by influence. They are effective because people come to them for advice rather than permission.
  3. Instead of managing work, which, when put that way seems the job of a clerk, leaders lead people to accomplish a goal. That means understanding the overall goal, seeing how individuals can fit into the process and contribute value, and inspiring them to help.

One way of summarizing the difference, and the inherent shift in attitude that is necessary to move from one camp to the other, is the subject of focus. Managers look to control what is happening and, as both cause and result, remain focused on their own position and interests. Leaders look outside themselves to help the organization and the individuals who work for it. If healthcare organizations are to take the next steps necessary to flourish in a changing environment, they need more leaders who see beyond themselves.

Are you interested in finding a rewarding and lucrative healthcare career that fits your individual strengths and interests? Find out how education can help you adapt to the changing healthcare landscape. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of nursing and healthcare management degrees, including an MBA Healthcare and MSN in Nursing Informatics.