Leading the Way in Health Care

As the mantra states: when you have it, well, you just have it. As true as that may be in regards to political and social attributes, the statement does not preclude the ability of anyone to learn to ‘have it’, but what is ‘it’? Every enterprise is started by a singular idea, and many ideas may come together to form the basis of any enterprise, but it takes a visionary mind to manifest these ideas. The people with these ideas are leaders who, by their very nature, are agents of change. These leaders tend to seek each other out when they have a common purpose and create solutions and fill voids that address problems in need of answers. However, once the paradigm of the enterprise is expressed, manpower is needed to ensure its operation and success. Much of this manpower is entrusted to managers who may appreciate the vision and goals of the enterprise but lack the vision themselves to affect significant change, and although this statement sounds pessimistic towards the manager’s abilities, hope is not lost. Managers can, and do, learn to be leaders. Further, one does not require a management position to be a leader; leadership is both intuitive and learned (Buckbinder, Shanks, & McConnell, 2012).

Aside from being visionaries, leaders need to be socially adept in order to promote their views and constructs; therefore, in order to gain the trust and respect of subordinates, managers should strive to hone attitude and behavior to be more fit to lead (Freshman & Rubino, 2002). Mayer and Salovey describe four specific abilities that can improve one’s emotional skill set, also known as emotional intelligence (EI): “(1) the accurate perception, appraisal, and expression of emotions; (2) generating feelings on demand when they can facilitate understanding of yourself or another person; (3) understanding emotions and the knowledge that can be derived from them; and (4) the regulation of emotion to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (as cited in Freshman & Rubino, 2002, p. 3).

The importance of EI is evident in the highly ethically charged environment of health care. Many recommendations have been made to cultivate EI within health care, both with clinicians and administrators, yet it is not evident that this has been taking place, according to Freshman and Rubino (2002). Perhaps, at least philosophically, one must know themselves before attempting to truly know others, but being comfortable with one’s self and possessing the ability to relate and empathize with others, especially in the health fields where patients are vulnerable and providers are, themselves, empaths, will offer a manager leadership capabilities that will create trust and mutual respect in the workforce. Applied to health care adminstration, EI can be divided into five components (e.g. self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, social awareness, social skills) that can be programmatically improved using training and career development opportunities with the organization.

Self-awareness goes back to the previous philosophical statement about knowing one’s self. We must take inventory of ourselves constantly in order to ensure that we understand our own strengths, weaknesses, as well as our motivations. Self-regulation, an important ethical descriptor, allows us to improve our own personal ethics in order to make difficult decisions more easily and without troubling remorse. Tough choices are made daily in the health care setting, and a leader should be able to make these decisions ethically with compassion and understanding. Self-motivation involves challenging one’s self daily to preserve the desire and passion personally and professionally. Social awareness is borne of the former components that allow one to consider the effect decisions have on others. Finally, social skills are necessary for effective communication, especially when considering the need to promote ideas and negotiate with others. These skills, inherent in great leaders, are beneficial to the health care administrator and beneficial, over all, to the health care organization.


Buchbinder, S. B., Shanks, N. H., & McConnell, C. R. (2012). Introduction to healthcare management. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Buchbinder, S. B. & Thompson, J. M. (2010). Career opportunities in health care management: Perspectives in the field. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Freshman, B. & Rubino, L. (2002). Emotional intelligence: a core competency for health care administrators. Health Care Manager, 20(4), 1-9.