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The 6 Most Important Skills Healthcare Leaders Need

The 6 Most Important Skills Healthcare Leaders Need

5/18/2019 11:52:57 PM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 27

Health care leaders are the people who make decisions that affect caregiving in the organization. They oversee work groups, teams, and entire organizations. They may work in accounting, human resources, or the operations of a healthcare facility. They have to handle the day-to-day issues that arise and plan the future of the organization. Population growth and aging of the population explains why the demand for these professionals will grow 20 percent over the next ten years. Here are the six most important skills healthcare leaders need.

Clinical Skills

Effective health care leaders must have both medical and business competencies because business skills without an understanding of medicine lead to poor patient care. Medical expertise without an understanding of business means leaders do not know how to gather resources and optimize productivity, things that eventually improve patient care.

If you have a business background, an advanced degree that teaches the specifics of healthcare management is an option. If you are a nurse, then a DNP executive leadership degree will teach you the business and management skills you need. A nurse already understands the clinical side, but they need to learn leadership, data-driven business strategies, and how to plan for the transformation of the organization. The organization will not survive if the healthcare leader is not familiar with healthcare economics and financial practices.

Business Competencies

Healthcare leaders must focus on the bottom line. The cost of care has been rising for patients and insurers alike. With many patients facing high upfront costs, they may only seek treatment when absolutely necessary. Then there is the risk that they will receive treatment and try to duck out of payments. This leaves many healthcare facilities with unpaid balances and continual collection efforts. This makes budgeting for the healthcare system a constant challenge while ensuring that money comes in essential to keeping the doors open. 

One solution is delivering care that is as cost-effective as possible. The other is setting up payment and collection plans and handling this like any other business. Collecting data on quality of care and analyzing performance metrics are necessary tomaintain the quality of care the organization leadership wants to continue. Many healthcare organizations have to track service quality and patient outcome data as a matter of course.

Interpersonal Skills

Healthcare leaders should have better than average emotional intelligence, the ability to read spoken and unspoken cues. This helps them determine when someone’s words do not align with their feelings. Healthcare management has to be able to deal with conflict management, whether these conflicts are between departments, competing interests like insurers and the billing department, or patients versus the system. Good leaders will be able to employ strategies from competition to collaboration to mediation to consensus seeking to resolve conflict.

Relationship development is an important interpersonal skill for healthcare leaders. Building sincere, mutual relationships with other administrators and those working in your department makes it easier to reach personal and organizational goals. When you cultivate close relationships with a professional network, you will be better able to attract quality talent in a competitive market. This can also help you find a new job when you are ready to advance your career.

Change Agency

Few areas are changing as rapidly as medicine with the advent of new technologies. New medical discoveries and shifting patient needs to drive change, too. This is why healthcare leaders need to be change agents. They need to be able to anticipate challenges before they arise and plan how the healthcare facility will adapt. This allows the firm to make a smooth, organized transition instead of reacting. You can find the most efficient, effective and cost-effective solution.

The biggest factor healthcare leaders have to deal with is technological. You must be able to understand various technological improvements coming to market and determine which ones will improve operations. You should continuously search for products that improve the quality of care at a reasonable price. Healthcare managers also need to know how to integrate new tools into daily operations when that becomes the new way of delivering healthcare. The shift from papers attached to clipboards to tablets and other handheld computing devices is one example. The growth of online portals to give patients access to their healthcare records is another.

Adaptive Decision Making

Adaptive decision-making means quickly analyzing complex matters by breaking them down to the key facts and related issues. You have tocompare these facts to the issue at hand and then make a quick decision, whether it is deciding to intubate a patient or challenging a rejected payment. 

Healthcare leaders have to be able to prioritize tasks and make the most important decisions first. They have to come up with efficient, effective solutions quickly rather than sitting around debating things for hours because healthcare often doesn’t allow that luxury. Yet you cannot make the emotional decision. You have to be able to weigh the positive and negative aspects of the possible solution against the organizational objectives and make a data-driven decision every time.


Every leader should be able to communicate clearly and effectively. This is even more important for healthcare leaders because you may be working with patients and administrators who are not familiar with medical terminology. You have to be able to present your case factually, completely, and in a way your audience understands. You have to share both positive and negative facts as appropriate.

This is where how the fact-based decision making of adaptive decision-making makes your job easier. When you can list the factors that went into the decision and why you made the decision, you can defend your decision in a succinct, logical argument instead of saying you felt a certain way.

As a healthcare leader, you will be communicating with individuals and large groups. You will head department meetings, send out staff emails, and give one on one coaching sessions. You will have to be able to share factual information and motivate others.


Effective healthcare leaders make a real difference in their organizations when they have the necessary skills. Their leadership results in high-quality service delivery in a cost-effective manner, benefiting individual patients and the community as a whole.

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