Simply put, leadership is the ability to organize and manage a group of individuals, working to achieve a common goal. Effective leaders can motivate those who follow them to work in unison, minimizing discontent while engaging employees and keeping them interested and hopefully self-motivated. Some may argue that this is a definition related to business. In other aspects of life, leadership may be something defined more simply by having traits which inspire others to follow one’s direction and lead. Because a specific definition of leadership is relative to the context in which it is being described, a general definition may be appropriate but more difficult to arrive at. Gould (2016) reminds of us a quote spoken by the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams who summed up leadership by saying “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” As a general guideline for leadership, I think this quote is an excellent summation.
Over the past few years, my role within my institution has been slowly changing as I’ve taken on more administrative responsibilities. Within the past year, this change in role has progressed even more rapidly and this has afforded me new learning and professional opportunities. The combination of these new experiences has given me a new take on healthcare leadership. As we’ve recently opened a new facility, we have taken on new and young staff, some directly out of training. In the early phases of this new setting, I have had to delegate some practitioners to certain clinical responsibilities which they are trained to handle but may not have been their first choice. The resistance I noted was much more than I expected and was quite frankly surprising. Having been forced to take the time to explain to a young physician in a new practice that her job required her to pitch in for the growth of the group by doing some things she was trained to but didn’t want to, was disheartening. It made me quickly realize that as healthcare leaders we can’t assume that the greater good is at least part of the motivation of our employees. My perspective on healthcare leadership has morphed to accommodate the realization that the potential need to micromanage medical staff is as present as is the need to manage globally toward the greater good.
One of the attributes that makes a leader successful is authenticity. Authentic leadership is a concept which has been gaining traction within the business world over the past few years. Riggio (2014) proposes four attributes which he says defines an authentic leader. In his article in Psychology Today he states that the four components of this type of leadership are maintaining one’s moral perspective, remaining genuine, having a strong sense of self awareness and staying open to all perspectives. In essence, the authentic leader is one who leads while staying true to the principals which likely helped them attain their leadership position.
To develop the skills of an authentic leader, it is important to keep in mind these four traits and to continually work toward excelling in these areas. The first important thing one must to do develop their skills as an authentic leader, is to hold a position of leadership which requires repetitive use of their skills on a consistent basis. The maturing leader should pre-set attainable and measurable goals for themselves, and they should ascertain success in meeting these goals on a regular basis. In addition to this type of self-assessment, the leader should enlist a supervisor to give feedback at regular intervals as to whether these determinants of authentic leadership have been met. This type of exercise will be beneficial to becoming an authentic health care leader because it will ensure consistent reminders before one veers too far off course and will provide positive feedback when goals are attained. The long-term value in this plan is that if executed properly, this exercise grows with the individual as they mature as leaders, never allowing one to fall to far off course.
As the times are constantly changing, to remain effective authentic leaders must be willing to evolve accordingly.