Effective Leadership in Health
Leadership in general is not about managing people or directing them. It is the ability to influence other people through collective action in order to achieve certain desired goals. Leadership ability is a phenomenon that is not found in all people; there are people who were born leaders whereas others were created. The ability to ensure that team members possess necessary skills and knowledge to perform tasks, have an acumen of delivering certain goals without coercion, communicate openly among themselves, and are ready to continuously get trained and coached constitutes leadership. The health care is a not an exception in having leaders as this can be seen in the presence of health officials from the ministry, heads of health ministry departments, hospital CEOs, and doctors among many other health professionals. Leadership in the health sector, by definition, is the ability to ensure that safe, high quality, and humane service is offered to patients by ensuring that their concerns, experiences, needs, voices, and feedback are dealt with. Hospital leaders should offer supportive, fair, and respectful leadership which actively promotes positive interaction between the health facility staff and patients(Curtis et al., 2011).
Kouzes and Posner (2010), through their proposal to have a model for the development of leadership ability, suggest that leadership has nothing to do with the personality of the person. They instead insist that leadership is a set of observable skills and abilities that develop from a person’s behavior. Their model has continued to prove that it is an effective and clear tool that can lead to the achievement of goals for individuals and organizations. This model has five practices of exemplary leadership which are modelling the way, inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, challenging the process, and encouraging the heart. The practices alone cannot be achieved without having commitments which include; finding a voice by clarifying personal values, setting an example by aligning actions to shared values, seeing the future through imagination, enjoining others in a shared vision and aspiration, actively searching for better ways to do things, finding workable collaborations, being risk-takers, allowing others to fully express themselves, recognition of individual contributions, and thereafter enjoying the victories of the shared process.
This assessment analyses the five practices of exemplary leadership and its commitments in relation to real life experiences of leadership in health. As a health discussion group team leader (DGTL) of a group consisting of 10 male and female students, I was able to develop my own leadership skills by constantly applying the five exemplary leadership practices as well as setting commitments in order to achieve our group’s set goals. Discussion groups are avenues that enable participants to develop and reinforce teachings from learning experiences. They give an opportunity to all members to converse and get all their questions answered. Discussions allow for growth and in-depth connections among the group members. The development of leadership abilities as a result of the engagement in the group is illustrated as follows;
Modelling the way: to model means to give a structure of how something should be done. It also means that a leader becomes an example for others to follow once they overcome their personal interests. Leaders in the health sector should establish working principles that allow health care workers deliver their duties without constant supervision. The principles should serve as a guide that outlay how the workers should be treated in order to achieve certain desired organizational goals. The persuasion of both individual and collective goals should also have an element of consideration from the leadership style at play in the health care sector. Leaders should also ensure that standards of excellence are set for themselves and their junior staff as they are an example of what should happen in the health care set up. The health care system is a dynamic setting that has emerging cases on daily basis such as the discovery of new disease or health condition. Health care leaders should be on the forefront to ensure that they provide clear direction to other health care staff in times of complexities so that they may not lose focus. By setting smaller objectives on a continuous basis ensures that people are focused until the larger objectives are achieved. A good example is by setting up clear codes of conduct for every department and unit in hospital together with consequential actions in case there is breach. Modelling the way, therefore, involves eliminating possible obstacles by setting rules, showing people where to go and by which means, and by ensuring that in the process everybody is set to benefit(Kouzes& Posner, 2010).
Practical Application; as a discussion group team leader, modelling the way for others involves setting the ground for open discussions by presenting an agenda that all members will contribute. This agenda is developed from a culmination of personal beliefs and experiences which should be shared with others. The norms, values, beliefs, and experiences that a person has in life are a result of collective learning through other people. We are owed to assist other people to grow in life by ensuring that we share common aspirations in order to achieve shared goals that ultimately improves the quality of life. The team leader also recognizes the dynamics involved in group discussions and sets guidelines to determine the workability of complex situations such as quarrel among members. The group team leader should treat all members as equal partners with each of them having their own set objectives and goals in the discussion; there should not be gender discrimination or violation of rights of individuals with specific beliefs and norms. By modelling the way, the team leader also identifies new opportunities that may arise from the group discussion such as the idea of carrying out the discussions outside class to work as a health consultancy group with a basis on health care advisory.
Inspire a shared vision: health care leadership is characterized by the need to make a difference in the system. By having a healthy and stable society, leaders in the health sector will achieve a lot. This is their biggest wish which they envision to achieve in future as they strive on daily basis to find solutions to the many health care problems and conditions. The leaders also, through their creativity, generate ideals of how they want to see the performance of the sector after a certain number of years. By creating short-term, medium-term, and long-term development plans, the leaders create an ideal and image of how they want the organization to be after the set periods. The plans that leaders in the health care sector develop cannot be achieved solely by them working alone; this necessitates the leaders to include other players in planning the dreams of the health care system. Examples of other players to be involved include architects, financial planners, economic analysts, and institutions of higher learning. Each of the players in the shared health care system vision has a role to play from provision of funds to installation of equipment and training of health care staff. Inspiring a shared vision, therefore, means that leaders in health breathe new life into other people by establishing an exciting opportunity where they benefit together from it(Kouzes& Posner, 2010).
Practical Application; group members in my discussion group needed to make changes in their lives, and be different people in the societies they live in. Through encouragement and learning from others, the discussion group offers a healthy background for the inculcation of new knowledge and skills which will be applied in real life once they graduate from school. Their biggest wish is to have a future whereby they will be able to solve day-to-day life challenges in their private life and careers. As a leader, through a shared vision of success, it was necessary to generate possible ideals of situations that will be faced in the future. Through creativity and brainstorming, the team leaders can agree on a number of issues to be discussed, and deduce a practical approach and solution to be used in the future. Health care professionals always face the challenge of having a balanced life between family and career owing to the busy nature of the professionalism and as such need to prepare themselves early by finding ways of striking the balance. The outcomes of the group discussion are also used by other people in different professional groups to find solutions to problems that they face.
Challenge the process:to challenge means to call into action of a particular person or activity. Challenging the process in leadership means that leaders should be proactive to come up with innovative ways of improving their situations and their respective organizations. In the health sector, leaders should challenge the process by allowing changes to take place inside the organization. One of the biggest things that leaders must realize as a threat in the execution of their duties is risk. Effective leadership in health demands that professionals must be risk takers; there must be experimentations that result in failures, mistakes, and unexpected results. But through these risks, innovative ways of doing things will be established(Kouzes& Posner, 2010).
Practical Application; as a group leader, being an active member is a necessity in order to inspire others into action. The process of personal growth and development takes a considerable amount of time and other resources, therefore, if my members are not fully committed they may give up on the process on the way. To avoid situations whereby these members find themselves non-committed to finish a process, as a leader I come in to challenge the process by initiating activities that inspire the members such as setting daily goals. I will also allow the members to undertake riskier activities beyond their scope such as holding a national talk show on health. The success or failure of this activity will spur new ways of presenting and discussing issues in our future presentations.
Enabling others to act:organizations are made up of people from diverse careers and backgrounds. These people are enriched with varying beliefs, experiences, skills, and values. Effective leaders should realize the importance and need to utilize the pool of human resources at their exposure to foster new collaborative activities that uses the divergent values, beliefs, and experiences. By actively involving their organization members, leaders in the health sector will understand that mutual respect developed will be basis for sustained trust and dignity. Team members will feel that they have developed new strengths as well as have a sense of capability and power. Team leaders should also share part of their responsibilities by entrusting junior members of staff to fulfil those activities (Kouzes& Posner, 2010).
Practical Application; my discussion group, in its composition, comprises of both men and women. These people have divergent views on many issues in life owing to the way they were raised, and as a result of learning in different environments. By allowing each member to express themselves in tackling various issues, the group becomes enriched in terms of acquiring new knowledge and skills. Enabling them to act through the presentation shows a leadership ability that encourages others to participate in shared goals, and building trust in the end.
Encourage the heart:organizational goals are not easy to achieve. This is because some of the goals and objectives take a very long time to achieve, and may not be feasible to all members in an organization. Posner and Kouzes suggest that to keep hope and determination of goals achievement alive, leaders must recognize what other members have brought and reward them accordingly. Rewards and awards can be in form of encouragements, celebrations, and gifts. The end result of recognizing the contribution from each member is achievement of objectives and goals which subsequently creates a sense of oneness(Kouzes& Posner, 2010).
Practical Application;the primary target of my discussion group is to generate a team of professionals who are well-rounded in issues of leadership in the health sector. This team should be able to provide the much needed leadership in the future especially to developing health care professionals. To achieve this target, the team members have to be fully committed to the process and the challenges that will arise. As a team leader, I have ensured that none of the group members has given up on the way as a result of one or two obstacles. By giving them constant guidance, I have encouraged them to be braver in order to overcome the smaller challenges and be focused on the bigger picture. The group also, from time to time, takes retreats to different places to get a feeling of a different environment, and tackle issues differently with a different mindset.
Influence of the exemplary leadership practices and commitments
Leadership in health is faced by a number challenges due to the nature of operations of health care facilities; the organizations need to continue operating against a strained cash flow and at the same time its employees need to be satisfied (Northouse, 2015). Leaders in the health care system can overcome these challenges and develop better leadership abilities through;
Not overlooking the small things – leaders may choose to focus only on the big decisions and goals such as opening new branches, and forget the need to concentrate on the success of the day-to-day operations of their facilities. The small things such as appreciating health care professionals and giving the staff enough breaks through shifts will lead to enhanced service delivery, and subsequently improve the general well-being of the staff, patients, and the community. This is illustrated in Kouzes and Posner’s practice of challenging the process.
Having high energy levels and confidence in service delivery – this can be achieved through working with high levels of stamina, maintaining equilibrium during levels of stress, being able to think calmly and effectively during crises, and being optimistic in times of difficulties (Stoller, 2009). This leadership ability relates well to Kouzes and Posner’s practices of modelling the way and encouraging the heart.
Being accountable by doing the things that need to be done – a leader can act above the line or below it. This means that the leader can act above the line by being responsible for things that happen, reaching up to their mistake, and finding solutions to the emerging problems or become irresponsible of their acts and they blame others for their actions. By being accountable, effective leaders in health take full responsibility of their actions, and they provide for a way out when the staff or organization are stuck. This leadership ability is justified by Kouzes and Posner’s practice of inspiring others by creating a vision through achievement of organizational goals.
Understanding personal visions of organization employees – leaders in the health sector such as head of a ministry may concentrate so much on the vision, mission, and values of the organization they lead only. It is advisable for such leaders to understand the aspirations of all members and fit them into the strategic goals of the organization. This clearly indicates a practice of encouraging the heart and sharing the vision.
Enhancing growth of technical, conceptual, and interpersonal skills among the employees. This will allow the leader to effectively achieve short and long term goals, enable employees to think holistically, and encourage team work (Stoller, 2009). By enabling others to work independently or in teams, it fosters further development of effective leadership abilities.
In conclusion, Kouzes and Posner’s model for the development of leadership abilities through the five practices of exemplary leadership is practically applicable in the execution of day-to-day activities of an organization. Effective leadership in health can be achieved by putting into practice the elements of good leadership taught thus achieving both organizational and individual goals.
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