Leadership in Challenging Times: It Starts with Passion

By Sukin, Debra | Frontiers of Health Services Management, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Leadership in Challenging Times: It Starts with Passion


Sukin, Debra, Frontiers of Health Services Management


SUMMARY *

Leadership is paramount during these challenging times of healthcare reform, workforce shortages, economic conditions, and aging population. Leadership success comes from a combination of the following: passion, vision, quality outcomes, strong knowledge of the industry, the ability to critically think, perspective, adaptability, and ongoing learning.

PASSION

Passion is a major drving force in leadership. If you don't love what you do, you can't lead others at it. My passion for learning the industry has been the ultimate driver in my success. This passion has given me the ability to study in a didactic setting and to seek real opportunities to expose myself to the breadth and depth of the industry, both of which have helped build a strong foundation of knowledge to prepare me for these complex, challenging times in healthcare.

Early in my career a mentor taught me that building skills was more important than seeking titles. This led me to accept jobs that some mentors would characterize as "career limiting" or "lateral." But I was passionate about my work, and found these jobs invigorating. For example, in 2001, I left a large, academic teaching hospital where I served in a vice president of operations role and accepted an assistant vice president role in a new ioo-bed community hospital. I took this job because of the once-in-alifetime opportunity to develop a hospital from the ground up and create a management team from scratch. Most leaders are challenged with managing what is given to them. This new opportunity offered me a chance to select a unique group of individuals to work together.

My passion for this work is what ultimately keeps the job fun and drives me to continue to learn and understand different perspectives. The passion is also what allows me to lead an organization during difficult times and coach the team to success.

VISION

Vision is another essential element in leadership. My vision is to build a quality organization that will be recognized as a benchmark for others. This vision is key to my own development and to the department or organization that I lead. It drives the goal setting in the organization, the people we recruit, the processes we implement and ultimately why we all come to work each day. This has given me a distinct business advantage, in that I've been able to bring closure or develop a plan of action more quickly than my competitors. For example, our organization is deeply committed to working with physicians and testing different models of care to achieve excellence. A group of renowned physicians approached the hospital interested in building a surgical hospital where they could deliver care and service different from their existing acute care hospital. With a committed group of physician partners aligned with our hospital leadership goals, we were able to bring a vision for a physician joint venture hospital to reality within 24 months.

The clear understanding of where we want to go allows me to stay focused and not get sucked into the "noise" of our industry.

QUALITY OUTCOMES

Focusing on quality and outcomes will help any health organization outperform its competitors. At my hospital, I make sure the focus remains on quality by surrounding myself with the best clinicians and other staff, all of whom possess a vision of superior quality. I believe every leader has a couple of essential people in their careers that they surround themselves with to get the job done. These individuals don't necessarily have titles that represent their significance in the organization. They are leaders in their own right and take upon themselves any task or job you give them without much guidance. These leaders understand the significance of developing processes, implementation, and outcomes. I have found that these special individuals are stimulated by the growth and development opportunities that they earn over time as well as the challenge of chartering new ground on many different fronts. …

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