Four Behaviors that Define Healthcare Leadership

What healthcare leaders need to meet challenges ahead

By Toby Cosgrove, MD

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DMC_Headshot_WEBLeadership is critical in times of change. Today, American healthcare is undergoing a rapid transition from a volume-based system of rewards, to a system based on value and risk. Incentives are being overhauled, the pace of work is speeding up, and knowledge is exploding at a rate no one person can absorb. Who will guide us through these passages? Who is today’s healthcare leader, and what qualities does she or he need to meet the formidable challenges ahead?

The critical four

At Cleveland Clinic, we’ve identified four key behaviors that we believe are essential to effective leadership. In February, we shared these themes with more than 3,000 of our caregivers, as part of a leadership summit (pictured above). They are:

  1. Leading through change. Today’s leaders must have a clear vision of the future based on the most fundamental values of the organization. We need to communicate our strategies, achieve consensus, and move quickly to implement change. Innovation is essential, and so is the courage to fail. Most importantly, we must never give up.
  2. Demonstrating character and integrity. We must be compassionate, active listeners who communicate from the heart. Drawing on our own experiences, we need to guide the team with honesty, clarity and mutual respect at every interaction. We earn our credibility by walking the talk.
  3. Fostering teamwork. Healthcare has become a team sport. Today’s leaders need to inspire their team members to work together toward a common vision and goals. We need to know the core values of healthcare, and use them as a platform for progress.
  4. Developing ourselves and others. A leader creates a learning environment that opens all caregivers to new skills and capabilities. Each of us needs to inspire and uplift our teams with a commitment to their professional growth and development. We set the example for lifelong learning by continuing to grow into our own leadership roles.

Finally, we must understand the uses of power. Not the power of office and title. But the power to help, the power to heal, and the power to change lives, beginning with our own. At Cleveland Clinic, we call this the Power of Every One. Applied in the aggregate, this power will enable us to meet the formidable challenges ahead with confidence and strength.

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Approaching the Future

Today’s healthcare leaders need to be clear about where we are going, what we’re trying to achieve, and how we plan to get there. From this vantage point, we can give our patients the best possible care, safely, and affordably.

Dr. Cosgrove is CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic.