Why Reinvention is the Key to Strong Healthcare Leadership

By Ken Stoll
April 1, 2022

If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it is that leaders in healthcare, as in other sectors, must be agile and adaptable. Circumstances have changed, again and again, and leaders have been forced to do the same.

Maria Thimothy, digital marketing consultant for the Chicago-area content marketing agency OneIMS, reiterated to Forbes something she once heard – that it is a good rule of thumb to view oneself (not to mention one’s organization) as being “under construction”:

This means that you are constantly tearing down and building up parts of your business and yourself. I truly believe this mindset helps you stay conscious that leadership is not something you can coast on. There are new challenges, new teams, new people, new circumstances we all have to deal with and assuming you’ve covered it all is impractical. Rather, view things from the mindset of what needs to be torn down today (what isn’t working) and what needs to be built (what new thing needs to be done) and you’ll evolve with the times and the people you lead. It also keeps you humble!

It is sound advice, and not just during a crisis. It is essential to constantly reassess and recalibrate – to have a realistic view of yourself and those around you. The world is evolving constantly, and ever more rapidly. You must understand that, and take steps to avoid inertia. Stagnation is a sure path to failure.

Again using the pandemic as an example, consider the manner in which many companies were forced to adapt to remote work. Whereas six percent of the American workforce was working from home before COVID-19 struck, 35 percent was doing so in the early stages of 2020, and it was estimated that 27 percent was still doing so by the end of 2021. Moreover, roughly eight in 10 workers would prefer to continue working remotely after the pandemic ends, and most experts believe flexible/hybrid models will remain the norm in a post-COVID world.

The point here is that business leaders were forced to reinvent themselves on the fly – that they had to deal with challenges involving communication, collaboration and engagement. The best of them adapted.

In healthcare the challenges were even more daunting, obviously. Fear of infection led to a 63 percent increase in the use of telehealth platforms and a 50 percent increase in the use of remote patient monitoring. Both technologies figure to remain critical to patient care as the U.S. population continues to age and physician shortages become more acute, as is expected in the years ahead.

In other words, as agile as healthcare leaders and their organizations have been to date, they’re going to have to be that much more so. McKinsey’s Shubham Singhal and Ari Libarikian wrote in April 2021 that healthcare leaders, like leaders in other sectors, must do six things going forward:

  1. Commit to business-building: Ideation, collaboration, allocating resources and problem-solving are central to this.
  2. Focus on value creation: That means paying attention to data, building out the brand and certainly being mindful of the competition as you move forward with your initiatives. What can you do to set yourself apart?
  3. Remain agile: Speaks for itself. As mentioned earlier, there will always be times when a pivot is necessary. It is up to a leader to be aware of what might lie ahead, in terms of challenges and opportunities. 
  4. Remain open-minded: Consider partnership possibilities, Singhal and Libarikian write, while at the same time being aware of how you can maximize internal operations.
  5. Keep your balance: Understand the new ideas and talents new hires can offer, and how they can supplement those of existing staff.
  6. Mind your metrics: Monitor certain KPIs, and use them to your best advantage.

Certainly these trying times have forced healthcare leaders to adapt in ways they might not have foreseen at the beginning of 2020. The future will bring more change, more reinvention. Those who deal with it best will always remember that they are under construction.