Navigating the complexities of healthcare requires innovative solutions to pressing issues and challenges. Healthcare is being disrupted, and leadership is the key to the responsive development of care delivery systems and business models that are value driven and consumer centered. Disruptive innovation calls for inventive leadership. The pace of change brought on by new entrants into the market necessitates leaders who are dauntless, spirited, and willing to take risks in shifting organizations toward new directions. The necessary transformative change requires the right healthcare executives at the right time with the right team. Undoubtedly, this time is unlike any other in the evolution of healthcare. This is the time for leaders with the mind-set to embrace and manage disruption and the skill set to meet consumers’ needs and expectations.
Many studies have examined leadership trends and development, styles of different generations, and predictive factors for success. However, traditional executive practices may not yield the desired outcomes as turbulent forces inflict a very different future on healthcare organizations. Leaders must develop unconventional approaches to meet these forces. They must envision the next monumental industry shift, involve their teams in innovation, prepare their organizations for change, constantly learn, and execute strategies to achieve performance improvement and growth.
High-performing hospitals and health systems are future oriented and develop ethical and diverse leaders at all levels. Their leaders are innovating to take their organizations to the next level of performance. They are not held back by leaders who are afraid to stop doing things the way they have always been done. As this issue of Frontiers of Health Services Management illustrates, a forward-facing healthcare leader possesses courage, talent, and a sense of balance, as well as a supportive board and leadership team and the drive to change the course of operations as needed. This leader must be technologically savvy and data literate—a change agent who can create relationships and build teams to achieve a shared vision.
Unfortunately, many consumers feel healthcare has been too slow to change. New competitors from retail and other sectors see opportunities in healthcare and are eager to take revenues by providing services with more consumer-friendly access and cost structures. With limited financial resources, not all healthcare organizations can compete on their own. Partnerships with start-up companies may be viable options to jump-start innovation, secure the necessary capital, and quickly introduce services to the marketplace. What new leadership skills are required to lead in this dynamic environment?
In this issue, feature article author Nancy Howell Agee describes the role of leadership in Carilion Clinic’s journey during the course of disruptive times. She tells how the organization has embraced change through its history and provides six guiding values for the organization and for herself as a leader: community, courage, commitment, compassion, curiosity, and collaboration. Agee also relies on a personal trait: “In keeping with my Southern roots, I draw from my steel magnolia leadership: strong and flexible, with a commitment to diversity, developing others, and fostering a workplace culture in which we can all thrive,” she writes.
Feature article author Gary S. Kaplan, MD, of Virginia Mason Health System, differentiates his organization’s current leadership model from previous approaches and describes key strategies leaders can leverage to stay relevant. He explains the methodology and philosophy behind the Virginia Mason Production System and outlines leadership behaviors that can stall innovation. “Never has it been more important for leaders to show courage, learn, and guide their organizations to the front lines of innovation,” Kaplan declares, adding, “We limit ourselves when we do not disrupt ourselves.”
The commentary by Anthony D. Slonim, MD, DPH, FACHE, of Renown Health in Nevada, focuses on leadership and cultural change. As Slonim explains, “Cultural change requires deliberate leadership, communication, and lots of time to achieve results … The CEO is an important cheerleader with the responsibilities for keeping focus, seeing that ample processes and guardrails are in place, ensuring that no people are left behind in the planning, and accomplishing key milestones and outcomes.” He also discusses appropriate execution; the importance of values and people; and the roles of leadership, board, and community.
Commentator Katie Abbott, FACHE, of The Bold Collaborative in Oakland, California, shares leadership concepts to nourish an organization’s culture and empower teams to steer the organization on a course for improved processes, decreased variation, and more engaged stakeholders. She also emphasizes that the well-being of leaders is crucial to the well-being of their organizations. “Through maintaining mindful strategy, a dedication to culture, involvement of patients in the details of our work, and care for our personal well-being as leaders, we have the ability to navigate change in a way that keeps the most impactful vision of health at the center of everything we do,” Abbott suggests.
In her commentary, Malisha Patel, FACHE, discusses the need for agile and transformative leadership. She reviews strategic imperatives, employee engagement, quality and outcomes, delivery system redesign, and the transition to value as essential leadership concerns at Memorial Hermann Health System in Texas. “One of the keys to success for Memorial Hermann has been putting the right leaders in place—talented individuals who move quickly and decisively and are not afraid to question the norm,” Patel writes.
Leadership is the critical element for transformation in healthcare. In taking the leap into uncharted territory and doing things differently, we discover new and improved ways to serve our patients and communities. If we do not change, others will find ways to disrupt us. So why wait for them to define our future? The time for ingenious leadership in healthcare is now.