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How to Implement Leadership Styles in a Healthcare Practice

Sonia Page
Posted by Sonia Page on April 26, 2021

Be honest. What's your leadership style? Do you coach? Support? Delegate? Direct? Or a combination of all four? Whatever your style, it's critical that you implement leadership on healthcare employees — doctors, dentists, dentist's assistants, billing administrators, and everyone else in your team. 

You know what it's like to work in a busy practice — the long hours, never-ending workloads, and ever-demanding patients. The pandemic has exacerbated these problems for everyone in our sector. So your team deserves a powerful leader — someone who encourages, challenges, educates, motivates, and, ultimately, inspires. For example, an office manager who unifies their team, resulting in happier employees and more productive patient outcomes.

Here's how to implement leadership styles in your practice:

Develop a Model for Effective Leadership Styles

Are you an authoritarian by nature? Or do you adopt more of a relaxed approach? No matter your style, you must understand the capabilities of effective leadership in your practice. 

Developing a leadership model requires knowledge of your team — the people that make your practice run smoothly. Consider your team's personalities, temperaments, and the type of work they do. You might use different leadership skills for a group of billing coordinators compared to a group of dental assistants, for example. Then create a list of leadership skills best suited for your employees. Decisiveness might be at the top of your list or dependability. If you have a junior team, you might focus on mentorship. It all depends on your team — or, more importantly, the people on it

Tip: Tracking performance reviews with HR management software will gauge what leadership styles are best for your team. Click here to track performance and become a better leader. 

There are qualities that all healthcare leaders should possess, regardless of faculty. Research printed in the Journal of Healthcare Leadership shows that healthcare employees and trainees such as physicians, physical therapists, and student doctors prefer leaders who:

  • Act with personal integrity.
  • Communicate effectively.
  • Act with ethical values.
  • Pursue excellence.
  • Build and maintain relationships.
  • Think critically.

Leaders who incorporate these qualities into their leadership model enhance learning, teaching, and patient care.

It's OK to Adapt Leadership Styles — But Stay "Bold"

Leadership styles are fluid, not rigid. Successful leaders adapt their styles according to the situation, but many leaders in our sector worry about changing things up, fearful their team members might perceive them differently. If you need to be more authoritative, you won't always come across as aggressive. If you feel a more laid-back attitude is suitable, it doesn't mean you're a pushover.  

In many scenarios, leadership is not about what you do but about how you do it. Take an office manager, for example, who asks their team to work during the weekend to reduce a backlog of medical bill receipts. A more empathetic approach might be better here, where the office manager sympathizes with team members who have to work overtime. An authoritarian approach, however, might cause distress or even conflict. 

Switching from one leadership style to another, depending on the situation, helps you achieve your operational goals. Whatever style you use, stay "bold." Researchers think that bold leadership is essential in healthcare, where leaders strive to achieve better health outcomes and reduce costs

This doesn't mean people management is less important than improving patient outcomes or cutting costs, but there are other facets of being an effective leader. You should know why your practice exists in the first place and make "meaningful strides in health improvement".

Not Everyone Likes Leadership Styles 

Not all team members will respond to your leadership style, and that's OK. One physician might take issue with the way you do things; another physician might love your style.  A negative response isn't always a reflection of your behavior but simply a clash of personalities. Some team members find it easier to take orders than others.

Being an effective leader in your practice has little to do with "being liked" and more about managing a successful team of people who endeavor to improve operational and patient outcomes. Just support your team and provide them with the right tools, and everything else should eventually fall into place.

Yes, tensions might arise, and this is normal. Most of the time, it's nothing personal but a miscommunication or a problem that needs solving.

"Meet in the middle by playing to your strengths and theirs, while taking a closer look at your own leadership weaknesses," says William Craig in Forbes magazine, who writes about employee culture. "Your employee will also have a chance to look at their professional strengths and areas for improvement. There are always learning opportunities, no matter how much experience you think you have."

And this brings us to other learning opportunities associated with conflict: 

  • Use your emotional intelligence to solve employee-related problems in your practice.
  • Try to adopt a laissez-faire attitude, where you don't get emotionally involved in another employee's behavior. 
  • Refer to your employee handbook (or, if you don't have one, create a handbook now with the latest HR software) for guidance about disputes and disagreements in your practice.
  • Take disciplinary action when necessary. 

Final Word

You might be an authoritarian, a delegator, or a coach (or a combination of all three), but whatever your style, make sure you implement leadership in your practice. Team members look to you for support, direction, and guidance, especially now during the pandemic. Follow the steps above and improve leadership styles in 2021 and beyond. 

HR for Health will make you an even better leader in your practice, with the latest HR solutions such as performance and task management tools, employee handbooks, and more. Click here to learn more.

Topics: New Hire, employment, workplace, general hr, human resources, leadership

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