Health Bench Strength
ATD Blog

Bench Strength of Leadership in Healthcare

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It’s no secret that the healthcare sector is experiencing significant and rapid change, with dramatic change yet to come. In an evolving and challenging environment, healthcare organizations must ensure high levels of technical and professional expertise. At the same time, they must develop the leadership capacity needed to adapt and succeed in the future. The specific challenges faced by healthcare organizations and healthcare leaders are not one-dimensional or easily characterized.

The Center for Creative Leadership recognizes that hospitals, healthcare systems, and other organizations in the health sector face a range of complex needs. Through the lens of leadership development, CCL has distilled common strategies and practices that cultivate high-performing healthcare organizations. As part of this work, CCL has identified six essential organizational capabilities:

  1. building collaborative relationships 
  2. strategic perspective 
  3. leading employees 
  4. participative management 
  5. taking initiative 
  6. change management.

But leaders in healthcare are least proficient in change management and leading employees. That’s according to a series of global trend reports from CCL, which captures insights from data it collected from 25,000 leaders across four regions and seven countries. Those reports provide an overview of the key competencies required for leaders to be successful in each region and illuminated the capability gaps where development resources would have the greatest impact. Using that same database, CCL’s Leadership Insights & Analytics team examined core leadership skills in six different industries, including healthcare.

Unfortunately, nearly one quarter of leaders in healthcare are not fully proficient in any of these competencies. “Taking initiative” ranked the highest, with 77 percent of leaders labeled proficient by their bosses. This skill was followed closely by “strategic perspective” at 74 percent, participative management at 72 percent, and building collaborative relationships at 70 percent. The least practiced competencies are “leading employees” (63 percent), which CCL defines as dealing with attracting, motivating, and developing employees, and “change management” (69 percent), which refers to the use of effective strategies to facilitate organizational change initiatives and to overcome resistance to change.


Given these figures, CCL recommends that healthcare leaders must make better use of informal influence behaviors rather than positional or hierarchical power. What’s more, they should work on building strong professional networks, which can critically improve a leader’s ability to build collaborative relationships throughout the workforce.

CCL’s ¬findings are based on a 2013-2016 sample of 3,153 U.S. leaders in government, and the leaders’ bosses provided the importance and profi¬ciency ratings. To learn more, check out the infograph on the CCL website.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected]

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