health care leadership, LHC, NHCC, leadership characteristics

5 Traits of Successful Health Care Leaders

How Emerging Leaders Can Cultivate Success

What traits make exceptional leaders? Why are these qualities so valuable? And how can aspiring health care leaders cultivate these characteristics?

I’ve had the pleasure of learning how various exceptional leaders operate over the years in my role as the senior director of Leadership Health Care (LHC), an initiative of the Nashville Health Care Council. LHC has a membership of over 500 health care leaders representing 200 organizations – that’s a lot of exemplary leadership to observe!

At Leadership Health Care, we focus on engaging the next generation of health care leaders. One of our core values is providing quality educational content for our members, and I’m always excited about the opportunity to pass along insights to help individuals thrive. With that in mind, I’d like to share five patterns I’ve noticed among exceptional leaders. Here’s what these five traits entail, why they are valuable, and how you can cultivate them in your growth as a leader.

5 Traits of Top Health Care Leaders

1. Act with Integrity.

What it means: Leaders who act with integrity do the right thing, no matter the circumstances. They stay true to their ethics, values and principles. Whether in public or private, leaders with integrity follow their moral compass and take responsibility for their own actions. They hold themselves and others accountable but also can find balance and allow for mistakes.

What it shows: If you are able to act with integrity as a leader, it demonstrates to your superiors, your customers and your team members that you have respect for yourself and others. Acting with integrity allows you to make solid, informed decisions under pressure. Further, it demonstrates to others that you are trustworthy and reliable and can handle great responsibility.

How you can cultivate it: To strengthen your ability to act with integrity, set aside time to make a list of your personal values and those of your organization. Then, consider recent interactions in your life and at work and ask yourself how well they align with your values. If you come across situations that don’t align, write what you could have done or said differently in each case to ensure you’re acting with integrity.

2. Be approachable

What it means: Approachable leaders are available to others. They are authentic, self-aware and genuine. These leaders aren’t afraid to make mistakes and admit when they’re wrong. They realize that as humans, we are all fallible, and they’re vocal about this, which makes people feel more comfortable around them.

What it shows: Being approachable shows your teammates they can come to you for help. It demonstrates that you are a strong leader – after all, being vulnerable and authentic is a sign of strength rather than weakness! Being approachable also models a willingness to learn and be fully human for others. It can allow your teammates to be themselves, raising their level of confidence and enjoyment at work.

How to cultivate it: To work on being more approachable, be aware of your body language and interactions. Smile, make eye contact, practice good posture, face people when talking with them and be warm and friendly. Keep any extreme emotions in check. It’s important to be authentic and honest, but if you feel heightened emotions coming on, especially as a leader, temper those while you’re at work. This will help ensure that your employees feel safe bringing issues to you. You can also bring positive energy to your team by asking about their day and what’s going on in their lives.

3. Be an Active Listener

What it means: Active listeners genuinely hear what others are saying. Leaders who show this trait listen patiently without interrupting, suspend judgment, and can recall what was said if needed at a later time.

What it shows: Being an active listener builds trust and makes employees feel safe. It shows you are empathetic, caring and interested in others. It also demonstrates that you are willing to help those you lead develop solutions for challenges. When you listen well, you show that others’ opinions are important, reinforcing their role as part of the team. It also sends the message that although you may be at different levels in the organization, each person is equally valuable.

How you can cultivate it: To be a more active listener, you can make space for others by silencing your phone, email and other distractions when they’re talking. This helps prioritize the individual in the moment. Also, listen without formulating your response while they are speaking. Active listening involves making eye contact, facing the person, nodding, showing compassion and responding after they are finished speaking. Don’t forget to ask questions, clarify and summarize to discover the why behind the what.

4. Be trustworthy

What it means: Trustworthy leaders are reliable and dependable. They are honest and steadfast in their word. They follow through on what they say they’ll do.

What it shows: Being a trustworthy leader lets your team members and leadership know they can consistently count on you. It builds customers’ confidence in your ability, brand and organization.

How to cultivate it: To build trustworthiness, don’t break confidences unnecessarily. If you need to vent or discuss interpersonal work relationships, rely on a confidant outside of work. Avoid workplace gossip at all costs. It can also be helpful to take a personal moral inventory to evaluate how well you follow through on commitments. Also, consider asking your closest allies whether they feel you are a trustworthy leader and what you could do to improve.

5. Have a Servant’s Heart

What it means: Those who lead with a servant’s heart practice humility and genuine respect for all people. They lead by serving for the betterment of others. These leaders honor and empower those around them.

What it shows: Leading as a servant shows you are dedicated to the well-being of your team members and the organization. It demonstrates that you are a flexible, team-oriented leader rather than a rigid, autonomous one. Leading this way models kindness for others and creates a culture focused on caring for the health of individuals and the greater good of society – which is particularly important in health care!

How to cultivate it: To lead with a servant’s heart, try to think of others more and yourself less. It can also help to get centered every morning in whichever way you prefer – prayer, meditation, exercise, journaling, etc. You can also strive to be more introspective, look closely at yourself and your motives and be open to feedback from others.

It’s been enlightening to learn from so many seasoned health care leaders over the past several years, and I’m always eager to see what lessons I can pass along for our industry’s rising leaders. To learn more about what Leadership Health Care offers, from interactive networking events to peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities to our annual delegation to industry tours, visit us online at Leadership Health Care.