Be a Great Leader and Inspire Others

October 10, 2019
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When practitioners look in the mirror, a growing number see themselves as agents of positive change; but they may not self-identify as leaders. “Leaders arise in all kinds of circumstances, and people can harness things in themselves to be leaders,” says Rebecca Ferrini, MD, MPH, CMD. On October 16, she will present a Society webinar, Being the Change You Want to See: Influencing Leadership to Do the Right Thing.

Why is this topic more important than ever? There is heightened awareness that a facility must have excellent leadership and communication in order to provide the best care for residents. It is also beneficial for a facility to have a method to assure staff feel engaged, valued, recognized, and have a chance to grow in the organization. However, there is little penetration of leadership expertise, or mentoring of new leaders, in the nursing home environment.

“We want to nurture potential leaders,” Dr. Ferrini says, and this means looking beyond those with leadership or management-level titles. “We also need to identify people with informal power.” This includes those who are seen as experts and have knowledge to share, as well as those who are known to be good, positive, persuasive people with strong social skills.

There are various ways to identify these individuals. For instance, Dr. Ferrini says, “We have software that tracks who looks at and comments on policies we send out for review. These are people we need to recognize and mentor.” Other ways to identify potential leaders, she says, include looking at who volunteers for activities and projects and who other employees go to for advice and information.

Of course, she notes, it is important to realize that not everyone wants to be a leader. “We sometimes think that if you find someone who is clinically strong, you promote that person. One school of thought is that anyone can be a leader if that person harnesses strengths and weaknesses; but some people just want to do their job.” She suggests giving people an opportunity to try out formal leadership roles before they move into them long term. “We need to work on ways to enable people to maintain dignity and jobs when they don’t want to be leaders or if it’s not a good fit for them,” Dr. Ferrini says.

One key skill for leaders, emotional intelligence, is gaining more attention. Part of this is understanding how others feel. “You can’t provide good care if your staff doesn’t feel like they are cared about. Happy staff will take the best care of residents. If emotions aren’t aligned and people’s needs aren’t met, they can’t ‘give’ effectively,” Dr. Ferrini says. She further notes, “This is a bit of a paradigm shift. A good leader validates feelings and can identify people’s underlying needs. It’s about prevention instead of reaction.”

Leadership in the world of the Patient Driven Payment Model (PDPM) presents some new challenges. “In the past, there has been a formal hierarchy of leaders and managers with specific roles. Our new world of teams and quality organizations breaks down this hierarchy,” Dr. Ferrini says. Instead of one leader who is the expert on everything, teams have various leadership roles and the autonomy to make some decisions. She observes, “This presents some opportunities for leadership outside of a structured hierarchy.”

Dr. Ferrini notes, “There are so many opportunities to step up and say, ‘Come with me in this direction and share what you think,’ even if it’s just discussing an option for a difficult patient.” She adds, “Truly great leaders are good listeners and they never stop learning.”

Webinar participants can bring their questions, stories, and leadership challenges to discuss on October 16. Dr. Ferrini says, “Everyone will find something in this program to make their organization and leadership better. There will be something for everyone, regardless of the size of their organization or their role within it.”

As always, this webinar is free for Society members. Click here for more information or to register.