Leadership is something many of us aspire to in our professional lives. In our efforts to attain leadership roles we step up to take on special projects, further our education, and absorb all we can through books, mentors, and other learning opportunities.
One thing I believe is universally true is that the leadership path is full of opportunities to learn about yourself, how you act and react toward challenges, how you interact with others, as well as insight into how you are perceived by others. Sometimes these "opportunities" can be difficult to handle, especially when our weaknesses are made apparent. However, knowing yourself and knowing your strengths and weaknesses, is the key to being a good leader.
At around the 6-month mark of being president at Avantas I took some time to reflect on my professional journey. Prior to becoming president, I had a senior leadership position overseeing operations. Before that I had other leadership roles both in and outside of healthcare. While leadership is not something new to me, becoming "the leader" gave me a completely different perspective.
Here are five things I've discovered that were important as I made the step to president.
1) Broaden your Perspective.
Challenge yourself to look at things through a different lens. As a leader you have to evaluate the business in a way that hasn't been done before, but not just for the sake of doing something different. There's a fine line between needing to change and changing for change's sake. The idea here is to think about the possibilities versus staying on trend. You get more latitude early on to make a bold statement, so make it count.
2) Realize you are Always Being Watched
Composure is everything when you lead an organization and you must lead by example. You can never visibly have a bad day. You are still human, and bad days happen, but you need to be a positive professional. Utilize your mentors and support network to work through difficult situations, but don't let your challenges visibly wear on you. How you look, how you hold yourself, and the facial expressions you make have an effect on those around you. I'm not encouraging you to be fake, but keep in mind that staff will infer things about the organization based on what they see from you, whether there is a connection or not.
3) Appreciate Differing Opinions
So often in business the squeaky wheel gets the oil. This can be an ultimately backfiring strategy. It's important to remember you are trying to serve the entire organization, so you can't get caught up in those two or three people who have a different opinion. Use it as perspective and move on. You can't focus on the negatives nor get too caught up in the dissenting opinion of the few. There will always be those people in an organization that will be slow to come around to new ideas and/or resist them behind the scenes though water cooler conversations. Don't allow them to affect those around you who are crucial to the success of your organization. How? I've found that change management protocols and training work well is helping people understand how what they do and say affect the organization. Provide your teams with the training they need and empower them to change their own behavior.
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4) Words Matter, but you'll Never Get it 100% Right
At Avantas, we use predictive analytics to forecast staffing needs, but predicting how people will perceive your words is much less certain. No matter how hard you try to craft and deliver the perfect message, there will always be those who perceive something slightly different than want you intended or expected. Communication then must be frequent and consistent to clear up misconceptions and drive the message home. It's also important that the reiteration of the message be fresh to keep your teams listening and engaged. If they think they've heard it before there's a chance they will tune out and miss any new information. Frequent and clear communication should go a long way to ensuring everyone hears the same message. Along with this, it's crucial that your leadership team understand the message so they can reinforce it with their teams.
5) Advocate for your Team
Don't be afraid to be an advocate for your team. You have to do the right thing for the business and your team. You need to push for what is right, and you need to serve them. When your teams know that you will be there for them to help them get what they need and deserve they will go that extra mile for you. At the end of the day, being a leader is about doing the most good you can for your organization and your teams.
As you continue your journey to leadership it is important to reflect on your goals and motivations. Also, define what success means to you. Success is not synonymous with a certain title. I've worked with colleagues who were focused on achieving that big title only to discover that they were happier with their prior role. That is not to say that you shouldn't be ambitious. I would just caution you to reflect on your motivations for wanting it. Be honest with yourself. Smart people can achieve anything they set their minds to; just make sure you listen to your heart as well. The career moves you make should align with your passions.
Hopefully these insights I had will provide a little perspective as you continue your evolution as a leader and healthcare professional.
Jackie Larson is president of Avantas, a division of AMN Healthcare. Avantas leverage sevidence-based solutions to help healthcare providers better manage their workforce. For more information, please visit the Avantas website at www.Avantas.com.
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