The Tradition of Mentoring Part II: Leadership and Mentoring in the Culture of Healthcare

By Gabriele, Edward | Journal of Research Administration, April 2010 | Go to article overview

The Tradition of Mentoring Part II: Leadership and Mentoring in the Culture of Healthcare


Gabriele, Edward, Journal of Research Administration


Introduction

In the second half of this afternoons presentation, I would like to discuss with you the complex yet fascinating interplay of leadership and mentoring in the culture of healthcare. Healthcare providers, regardless of role, inevitably exercise some form of leadership. Effective leadership requires equally effective mentoring. Contrary to some misconceptions, mentoring is a lifetime process. It never ends. It is also far deeper than simply the acquisition of technical skills and behaviors. True leadership, especially in the extremely sensitive arena of healthcare as a human service, requires a never-ending quest for personal as well as professional improvement. What makes this even more complex is that this leadership comes about not just in any ordinary context, but in the highly charged and extremely critical context of healthcare. Unlike many other realities, healthcare gathers human beings at the most sensitive moments of life. Therefore, the exercise of leadership and the mentoring required for leaders have a special and intricate value.

To understand this complexity, I will reflect with you upon five specific areas. First, we will explore the culture that is healthcare and the role of leadership and mentoring within. Second, we will review the basic principles of healthcare ethics that give shape to healthcare leadership and mentoring. Third, we will consider briefly four areas of responsibility in healthcare. Fourth, we will reflect upon four signature pedagogies of the Carnegie Foundation that can be valuable approaches for establishing long-lasting, positive experiences of leadership mentoring. Finally, I will reflect upon an image for sustaining and advancing the meaning and mission of healthcare leadership for the future. It is my firm belief that my final comments provide a critically needed re-imagining of the fundamental goals and content for the continuing education and ongoing mentoring of leaders in healthcare.

Mentored Leadership in a Zone of Cultural Contest

Leadership is a multifaceted construct. In organizations, we can identify leaders, managers, and technicians. While their relative areas of responsibility necessarily overlap, technicians are generally responsible for carrying out operations. Managers provide tactical direction for those operations. Leaders are those who strategically oversee all areas of the organization's tactical delivery. At an even higher level, leaders are those persons and groups who coalesce and integrate all tactical directions and operations with the general mission, purpose, and strategic or long-range plan of the organization itself. From another perspective, leaders are responsible for calling a group to its ultimate purpose, its Being.

I would not say that leaders are necessarily born. Leadership is not necessarily genetic. However, it does draw upon personality traits and innate skills and abilities. It does require significant nurturing and education. It also requires personal and professional mentoring. I do not think it would surprise any of us, when we think about historical circumstances, that it is too easy for the authority of leaders to devolve into tyranny and authoritarianism. This is one reason why the ongoing formation of leadership is as important as is continuing education in leadership skills. Leadership affects and is influenced to its very root experience by one's psychology, community background, values system, experience, and personal goals.

Within this context, it is easy for us to see why mentoring is critical. Just as it is true in any of the professions or in academics, mentoring is the means by which knowledge, skills, and abilities become grafted and integrated into the values formation of the individual leader. The "what" is married with the "who." This is a lifelong-task and it is filled with deep and abiding challenges.

In ancient Greece, philosophers said that society and each person are guided by one's "telos," one's end-point. …

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