Leadership is one of the most important functions in the management of any industry, and at the same time, it is not an easy job because a leader is somebody who is looked up to and is expected to know and do the right things. This was aptly put by John C Maxwell as, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Among all the industries, today’s fast-paced modern healthcare setting calls for effective leadership more than ever before. Effective leadership in healthcare is furthermore a challenging task since it asks for an additional competency of clinical skills and knowledge, besides the obvious leadership traits of business competencies and interpersonal or soft skills, and an inherent drive to improve the quality of healthcare
The success of any organisation, department or a team is dependent on the ability of the leader to focus on a vision or idea, to establish a direction and path, motivate the team to take the path, and eventually building the right culture or habit at the workplace.
When Airbnb was founded, CEO Brian Chesky was 27 years old. Steve Jobs was 25 years old when Apple went public. Bill Gates was only 20 when he founded Microsoft. I have realised early on that I need to imbibe and implement the traits that made them achieve amazing things at a young age despite the inexperience. Four mantras that have played a huge role in shaping and influencing my professional life are taking an initiative, decisiveness, perseverance and responsibility.
Focussing on these personality traits in my day-to-day job responsibilities from day one have helped me further my work at Apollo. One other important personality trait that I have focussed early on is judgement. As the popular Chinese philosopher Han Fei Tzu says, “It is not difficult to know a thing; what is difficult is to know how to use what you know”. Under the able guidance and mentorship senior leadership at Apollo, I was able to do innovate and implement multiple initiatives at Apollo Hospitals including some of the first evers in the Indian healthcare industry.
With a significant shift in the healthcare landscape in India, there is a growing demand for cost-effective quality healthcare services which is what our entire focus has been for the last couple of years at Apollo. I believe through these projects, we have tried to redefine the health system and processes at Apollo and clearly laid out the preferred path for several key aspects, including adherence to treatment and care protocols, regulations, quality models, clinical as well as operational
efficiency and patient satisfaction. The critical learnings have been:
Taking initiative: I have learnt to take up initiatives while keeping the patient always at the centre.
Decisiveness: In healthcare I feel decisiveness is very critical at all times. Effective and timely decision making and not sitting over issues was a virtue that I learnt in the initial few years.
Perseverance: Resistance is always a part of every human, especially in organisations that have existed for many years. Keeping the same in mind, I learnt to overcome resistance, difficulties or delays in achieving success.
Responsibility: Owning up initiatives and being responsible is also very important. What we imbibe and emulate is what our team members follow as well.
I adopted multiple strategies to overcome all the challenges that I faced and some of them were:
Using data and real time outcomes to convince people that there’s a problem and secure emotional engagement by more interactions. Team engagement and their buy in for the initiatives, targets, ways to achieve them and sustenance. It is also important to clarify who owns the problem and solution, agree roles and responsibilities at the outset, work to common goals and use a shared language.
Incentivising participation and ‘hard edges’ – Relying on the intrinsic motivations of staff for quality improvement can take us a long way, especially if ‘carrots’ in the form of incentives are provided—but they may not always be enough. It is important to have ‘harder edges’—sticks— to encourage change but these must be used judiciously and only in dire circumstances.
The key principles are also to be prepared always, think bigger than you actually are, focus on growth and set the goals along the way. Healthcare industry is a very complex sector, in terms of the constant changes. And that’s where the need for good leadership is even more critical. It is the leader’s role to handhold and guide the organisations towards effective and efficient healthcare delivery.