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Transformational Leadership: Changing Ahead of the Curve

Transformational Leadership: Changing Ahead of the Curve

On our Web page we describe our work with clients as “assisting with developing and implementing transformational change” which will position their organizations for success in the future. Obviously, this requires Transformational Leadership within the organization. I am frequently asked for more clarification on the specific competencies related to leaders who can lead a transformational process. Below, I have tried to do just that!

The average life span of Fortune 500 Companies is 40 to 50 years because many do not embrace transformational change ahead of the curve. Organizations that will stand the test of time will require innovative leaders who are able to envision the future and prepare for such in a proactive manner, rather than a reactive one. This is a critical success factor in the health care industry, as more affordable high quality health care will not come from an injection of more funding, but rather from innovations that aim to make more and more areas of care cheaper, safer, and more accessible to patients.

Long term success will require resilience, because the innovation journey is not easy. It often results in push-back from those who want to maintain the status quo. Those who cannot see the future “vision” as clearly must trust the innovative leader and give the “new journey” their full support. Dealing with 'push-back' and securing the trust of skeptics is difficult. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficult or challenging experiences, to manage pressure, and to adapt quickly to change while continuing to produce excellent results. My experience has shown me that these traits can be learned and even improved over time. Specifically, I believe the four key characteristics of resilient leaders are the abilities to:

1. Accept reality

2. Find meaning in difficult situations

3. Make plans for a better future

4. Move quickly to solve problems, develop innovative strategies, and develop processes for rapid implementation of these strategies.

It is important to recognize that as healthcare providers prepare to change ahead of the curve, they can no longer benchmark themselves against their own historical progress or that of their peers outcomes, but instead must know what the new competitors are doing or planning to do. These are the organizations that are ‘creating the new rebar”, a topic from one of our recent blogs by our partner Jay Herron. They include technology vendors, insurance companies, health plans, and retail providers like Walmart and CVS. Providers of care must become increasingly skilled at predicting the new settings where healthcare will be delivered and do everything possible to move appropriate service lines to these venues before the new competitors fill these voids. Transformational leaders calculate this window of opportunity and clearly articulate and understand the toxic side effects of not changing, as well as the risks associated with leading such changes.

In addition, there are five other competencies that I believe successful transformation leaders must incorporate into their leadership toolbox:

1. Maintain the right balance between being the market leader and disciplined execution. This is not an either/or, but a both/and mind frame. To be successful innovative strategies must be implemented as flawlessly as possible, focusing on an 8 to 10 year future, but making sure that present performance is operationally sound.

2. Continuously identify the required leadership competencies for transformational success. Through performance improvement plans, these competencies can be enhanced in the present team, and any voids must be identified and filled by hiring from the outside. This often requires a disproportionate share of the CEO’s time……developing and recruiting people!

3. Commitment to using a selective scorecard to measure business performance. The metrics must be high enough and different enough to facilitate the necessary changes envisioned. This will continue to require total transparency of all data, but particularly that associated with quality, costs, accessibility, business literacy, and financial success.

4. Recognize technology as a strategic asset. It is clear that clinical performance, business strategy, and information and clinical technologies must all converge. And to assure the organization is one of the first to arrive at the head of the curve, its leaders must carefully and thoughtfully evaluate and adopt new technologies in a timely manner.

5. Embrace the emphasis on continuous renewal. Transformational leaders are continuously alert for competitive softness and vulnerability. Signs of such are invading healthcare In a very significant way. Hence, leaders must be on the lookout for new market opportunities and create a relevance to the rapidly changing future, while maintaining a fierce pride in their organization’s history.

The roadmap for transformation leadership must be embraced by all the employees in the organization. This will require constant communication of the rationale for change, and helping each employee see clearly that, although some things must be preserved in the current way of doing business, other things must go away and be replaced by new approaches and new products. It must be clearly stated that if an organization cannot stay ahead of the curve, its long term future is at an extreme risk.