Over the next few weeks, I will be writing some reflections on leadership, particularly as it applies to rural hospitals. In my career, I have served as CEO, COO, Director of Operations, Human Resources, Affiliate President, Resource CEO, and now Chief Development Officer with Impact Healthcare Solutions. In some of these positions I have been a follower. In others I have been a leader.
What is a leader? This has been a question I have pondered for most of my career. I have been a student of leadership for the past 20 years. I have been intrigued by leaders like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Walt Disney, who excelled when they were called on at very crucial times in their lives and formative times in history. But there are some great new teachers of leadership out there offering new ideas and concepts for leaders. Bill Collins, Quint Studer, Patrick Lencioni, Scott Sinek, Marshall Goldsmith, and Robert K. Greenleaf. I encourage you to read them. The truth is many of us have the seeds of great leadership inside us. What is amazing is just how few great leaders there really are in corporate America. It is simple to be a great leader, but it is not easy.
It is my opinion that in Rural healthcare, there is no need greater than true Integral Leaders. We are all either leaders or followers. Sometimes both. And, I’m sure you know that there are good leaders and bad leaders. But how do you know what good leadership is? As I reflect on the good leaders I have known, the only single trait I find that is common to all good leaders is Integrity. (Some of you may think of other traits, if you do, please send me your comments. I’d love to read them.)
An Integral Leader is simply a leader of Integrity. I see it as the word it relates to–Integration. It means that you have “mixed’ into your life what you know is right and best as the leader of your organization. So what are the traits that must be integrated into your life to be a good leader.
In this issue we will talk about being fair, honest and open. Some years ago I worked for a hospital VP who taught his team to look at how we dealt with our employees. In all our dealings we were to be fair, honest and open.
FAIR. Not only to the individual, but to our patients, our staff and to the organization. It is important that in our decision making we strive to be fair to all.
HONEST. Are we being honest? Have you ever worked for a person who lied? I think we all have. It kills morale by destroying trust in your employees. Sometimes the truth is tough. But if you cannot tell the truth, tell the person or staff you cannot give them an answer at this time.
OPEN. Finally, always be open with all of your staff. It is easier, and they will appreciate your openness. Don’t you appreciate it when someone is open with you?
Here is an example using all three:
One of your department leaders notices a change in the behavior of an employee and suspects something is wrong. As often happens to CEOs, they bring the problem to you. You must decide if the employee should be drug tested. So, you bring the employee in to your office, along with an HR employee. You must be fair, honest and open with the employee so you tell him/her all the circumstances and give him/her a chance to respond. I have explained the concerns we have and tell him/her we are going to require they go for a drug test. They respond in disbelief and deny everything. But you feel it is still necessary to require a drug test. Is it fair to order a drug test on that individual even though you are not quite sure there is a problem? I submit that it IS fair. It is because if the person is, as they contend, not on illicit drugs, they will be cleared. You have been fair, honest and open with the employee. Through their behavior the employee has created a need for a decision—your decision. But in the big picture it probably serves the employee best by testing him/her. What if he/she tests negative? What if he/she was just having a bad day? Well, then I have to apologize to the employee—actually I will be happy to apologize. It’s better for everyone involved if he/she tests negative.
But, what if he/she tests positive? First, you are being more than fair to the employee because you have now discovered a problem that will, if left untreated, keep that person from working in healthcare for the rest of their life. Hopefully, your company has a program to help the employee get treatment.
Of course, it was fair to your patients. No patient should ever have to be taken care of by a person whose judgement is compromised by an illegal substance. It’s also fair to the other staff, because now they do not have to work with and cover for this person that they knew was taking drugs. (They always know.) It is also fair to the organization that this person was tested because there was a great liability if the hospital allowed a person to work who is under the influence of an illicit drug.
In this article we have briefly discussed some traits I believe it takes to be an Integral Leader. An Integral Leader must integrate into his/her life what they know is right and best. We also discussed being Fair, Honest and Open with your employees, patients, families, and organizations. We will look at some other ideas in our coming issues.
If you have questions you would like answered, or have suggestions, please do not hesitate to email your questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call me at 251-610-7661.