Transformational Leadership: The Best Leadership for Healthcare

This paper is an examination of the methods and practices of transformational leadership. The theory behind transformational leadership is discussed. An explanation of how transformational leadership is practiced is also included. Finally, a discussion of the current state of the health care industry is initiated, with a look at how transformational leadership is the best leadership style to transform this industry for the better.

This persuasive paper focuses on change leadership in the healthcare industry. The purpose of this paper is to persuade the reader that transformational leadership is the best type of change leadership for the healthcare industry.

Transformational Leadership: The Best Leadership for the Healthcare Industry

Change leadership is just what its name implies-a type of leadership that is devoted to guiding an organization through positive changes, and it dynamic in making those changes happen. This is a popular leadership style nowadays. Moving into the 21st century has forced many businesses and organizations to realize that they must change to keep up with the times, that technology and new ways of relating to others and doing business mean that business as usual in no longer acceptable. In order to be competitive in this new century, businesses must change their practices to be cohesive with the new business environment. For a business to be successful in making this adjustment, a strong, specific style of leadership is required to guide the organization through the change (Change Leadership, 2003). This is the purpose of change leadership.

Within the area of change leadership, there are several sub-areas of change leadership specialization. One of these sub-areas of change leadership is transformational change. Transformational change is defined as patterns of actions contained within an organization’s culture (Transformational Leadership, 1998). These actions include such behaviors as clarifying goals, communicating, taking consistent action, caring, and creating opportunities for development (Transformational Leadership, 1998). By carefully cultivating transformational leadership in the chosen leaders of a company or organization, leaders will be produced who can adapt and deal with organizational members, define, prioritize, and communicate a strategic mission, coordinate and design work systems to promote cooperation, and utilize multiple supporting mechanisms (Transformational Leadership, 1998).

In layman’s terms, transformational leadership is the process of perceiving when change is needed and influencing the organization by such non-coercive means as persuasion and being an example to the organization in the efforts of goal-setting and goal-achievement (Wonacott, 2001). In transformational leadership theory, four factors motivate employees to perform beyond expectations. These factors are promoted and put into effect by transformational leaders who develop, intellectually inspire, and inspire them to work toward a collective purpose, vision, or mission (Wonacott, 2001). The first of these four factors is charismatic leaders who earn respect, trust, and confidence and who transmit a strong sense of vision and mission (Wonacott, 2001). The second factor is leaders who intellectually stimulate their employees and encourage them to question the status quo and to critically examine their own assumptions and beliefs and those of their leaders (Wonacott, 2001). The third factor is leaders who show individual consideration in personalized attention to every employee’s needs so that each employee feels valued (Wonacott, 2001). The fourth factor is leaders who give inspirational motivation that communicates a vision as well as the confident, optimistic belief that the vision is obtainable (Wonacott, 2001). It can be seen then that the common factor in all four of the motivating factors of employees is their leader. Because of this, transformational leadership has the potential to be a dynamic force in an organization.

Transformational leaders have the ability to change their employees from self-serving individuals in the organization, only looking out for their own good, into community-minded individuals who are working toward the common good of the whole organization. Transformational leaders have a clear collective vision and are able to communicate it effectively to all employees (What Is?, n.d.). They act as role models for employees, stimulate employees to be more innovative, and are not afraid to take risks or to use unconventional methods to attain their collective vision (What Is?, n.d.). In this way, transformational leaders leave room for their employees and the organization as a whole to breathe and grow (What Is?, n.d.).

Transformational leadership is very different from the other main sub-area of change leadership. This other sub-area is known as transactional leadership. In this form of leadership, managers have a very “hands off” approach to employees (Full Range, 2000). They do not take stands on issues, do not emphasize results, do not take action when issues arise, and are generally unaware of employee performance (Full Range, 2001). These sorts of managers only take corrective actions. They set standards but wait until problems arise before doing anything about them, they stress only what people are doing wrong, and they make it a point to enforce rules, disliking any change in the status quo (Full Range, 2001). On the other hand, these types of managers do have a clear system for handing out rewards. In transactional leadership, there are often clearly stated expectations for employees, and clearly stated rewards for meeting these expectations. However, this is the only positive thing this type of leadership has going for it. In general, transactional leadership causes fear and mistrust of management among employees, and fosters a stressful “us vs. them” environment. This type of environment is not conducive to positive change.

In contrast to transactional leadership, there are many positive elements that transformational leadership can bring to an organization. Numerous studies have shown that transformational leadership does such wonderful things as:

·        Increase organizational performance and customer satisfaction.

·        Increase employee commitment to the organization.

·        Increase employee trust in management.

·        Enhance employee satisfaction with their jobs and their leader.

·        Reduce employee stress and increase well-being. (What Is?, n.d.)

Transformational leadership is of particular importance to the health care industry. In today’s world of a health care industry with a reputation as being cold and uncaring toward patients, a new model of leadership is greatly needed. People today are not only frustrated with the impersonal and often harsh treatment they get from people in the health care industry; they feel like just a number to health care professionals rather than a person. This is not just problem in patient perception. A larger number of medical mistakes are being made today than ever before, and health care professionals are working longer hours and reporting more stress. These long hours and stressful working conditions are having an obvious effect on the quality of care patients receive, and patients are noticing it. A new model of leadership for the health care industry is required. Transformational leadership is just what the health care industry needs.

In the health care industry, physicians are normally looked to as the leaders in any health care facility. Physicians are, after all, the ones with the most education and training in the industry, and the ones who make diagnoses and perform the most intricate work. Therefore, it falls to the physicians to take a look at their leadership styles and learn to make the necessary adjustments in order to improve the morale of their subordinates and thereby increase the quality of patient care. Since physicians are very busy people who don’t have much time to study leadership styles, the health care industry has continued to be operated by an outmoded hierarchical system (Schwartz, 2002). This outmoded system has caused the health care industry to stagnate while other industries that have updated their management styles and changed with the times have flourished (Schwartz, 2002). Since transformational leadership is most effective in energizing and mobilizing individuals within organizations, the physicians of the health care industry would do well to take a moment or two, or even take a week and go on a retreat, to learn about the styles and benefits of transformational leadership.

There are three stages that a medical office or institution must go through in order to instigate a change to transformational leadership. The first stage is to “wake up” the office, letting the others who work there know that they must improve or perish (Smith, 2003). Most businesses are slow to recognize the need for this important first step, and are hurt in the marketplace before they see the need to wake up; the same is true of medical practices, as patients can always go to the doctor’s office or the hospital around the corner where transformational leadership is practiced. Resistance to change needs to be guarded against; this is especially true in medical offices that are already successful and so see no reason to change (Smith, 2003).

Stage two is to create a vision of the preferred practice paradigm for the office (Smith, 2003). The type and size of these paradigms need to be very specific. If a physician is able to give his or her patients clear picture of what is going to happen and why, those people will be more likely to go along with it. This stage is very important as without a clear picture, no one will understand what is being done (Smith, 2003). The clearer the picture the physician is able to paint, the better response he or she will have (Smith, 2003).

Stage three is the actual re-working of the office (Smith, 2003). The stage involves re-training workers and developing new procedures to fit the new paradigm the physician has created. For most physicians, this is a fun stage, as it is very hands-on, challenging, and exciting. This is the stage where the physician gets to see his or her plan in action and can see how it is working; most often, a physician will notice a tremendous change for the better coming over the practice, and patients will report a greater degree of satisfaction with the service received there. After this, the only thing left for the physician to do is to continue to practice transformational leadership and to engage in ongoing development of the practice (Smith, 2003). With this type of leadership, physicians are better able to get people from where they are to where they need to be (Smith, 2003).

Leadership is about the future (Bujak, 2001). In order to be effective and competitive, all businesses must embrace the changes that the future will bring. Micromanagement is an all-too-common management practice in the health care industry, and it belongs in the past (Bujak, 2001). Physicians have typically been some of the biggest practitioners of micromanagement, wanting to be involved in every aspect of running their practices, right down to the billing procedures. This causes stress not only for their employees, but for the physicians themselves. This is not effective leadership. However, imagine what could happen in the health care industry if physicians (and hospital administrators, as well) embraced a model of transformational leadership.

A transformational leader in the health care industry would celebrate the workforce at his or her office or institution, and would revel in the diversity there; this diversity would not only be in race or gender, but also in style of working, personalities, and methods of learning. A transformational leader would embrace all of these things as each contributing something unique and important to the practice. By maintaining this attitude, the transformational leader would naturally reach out to and encourage all employees in their individual endeavors at the practice, thereby motivating them to do better and to achieve greater things than they could have achieved before.

A transformational leader in the health care industry would also endeavor to remove any perceived barriers between employees and himself or herself. This would mean tearing down old hierarchical structures that made the physician leader unapproachable or intimidating to employees, By removing this barrier, the physician leader will succeed in making the practice a more open and hospitable place for employees, one in which they can feel comfortable expressing themselves, asking questions, clarifying objectives, and asking for help if they need it. A practice without institutional barriers between the physician leader and the employees is a relaxed, yet happier and more effective organization.

A transformational leader in the health care industry trusts his or her employees and gives them the room they need to do their jobs in their own way. This is very important. Every person has a unique and different way of doing things, and what may work wonderfully for the physician leader may not work so well for a nurse or a receptionist. Under older ways of doing things, the physician leader would force those who worked in his or her office to conform to their method of doing everything, from organization to time management to how to greet a patient. For those employees who were not comfortable with this method of operation and who had different ways of doing things that they knew were just as effective, this sort of management created a stressful, almost hostile environment. By allowing employees the freedom to get things done in the way that suits them best, the physician leader is encouraging greater efficiency, fewer mistakes, and greater employee loyalty.

A transformational leader also encourages innovation and allows his or her employees to take risks. Given the right circumstances and having the liberty to try, ordinary people will accomplish extraordinary things (Bujak, 2001). The transformational leader creates these circumstances. Without being given the freedom to take risks, employees will continue to perform in the same old ways, and this can be detrimental to the health care industry, especially now, when it is in such a great need of change. When given freedom to experiment with innovations, employees in the health care industry will often come up with wonderful solutions to long-standing problems. Even when a new innovation from an employee is not working out in the parameters of the practice, the transformational leader will offer encouragement to the employee who instigated it and guide him or her in a direction that may be better suited to the practice, allowing that employee to come up with the details on his or her own, and giving that employee the freedom to try. Environments such as these create the best sort of changes, and the ones that do the most good to the industry as a whole.

A transformational leader will stop trying to manage other people’s problems. My being a sorter and not a “savior” and by making time for the important before the non-urgent, the transformational leader focuses on what is truly important in the organization and encourages a sense of responsibility in managing their own issues among employees. A transformational leader establishes the minimum standards that they will accept, and allows employees the freedom to determine how they will meet those standards; often, when left to their own devices, employees will exceed those standards many times over.

Finally, a transformational leader prioritizes the values of the practice. In other words, a transformational leader establishes priorities for the practice and allocates resources to these priorities based on their importance. By making these priorities clear to employees and by backing that up with the allocation of resources, the transformational leader makes employees aware of what the objectives are for the practice and what the most important objectives are. By knowing this information, employees are better able to organize their time and focus their efforts. Prioritizing the values of the practice makes for a better, more tightly run practice all around and created happier employees and patients.

In conclusion, transformational leadership is a leadership style that is dynamic and energetic, compassionate and trusting. Transformational leadership is the kind of leadership that makes organizations grow and thrive because the employees of those organizations are in a supportive environment that encourages them to take initiative and express their individuality, while at the same time providing them with clear objectives to aim for. A business that is operated with a transformational leadership style is one that is embracing the 21st century; such a business is giving itself every chance of not only succeeding but thriving.

Transformational leaders use compassion and trust to build a sense of community in their workplaces. This sense of community motivates employees to be their best and to work toward the common good of the organization. With a transformational leader, no longer will employees be self-serving and only putting their most minimal effort out that it will take them to get by. When inspired by a transformational leader, employees come to have a sense of pride and purpose in the organization which employs them, and this breeds loyalty in employees. Loyal employees look out for the best interests of the organization because they feel connected to the organization. This kind of loyalty is one of the best investments a business can make in itself.

Transformational leadership is especially needed in the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry is suffering from a lot of bad press at the moment, and a lot of patient dissatisfaction with the quality of care they receive. The people who work in the healthcare industry are suffering from stress and burnout. A lot of these problems are due to the stagnation of the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry is still mired in an old-fashioned system of hierarchy and protocol and proper channels to follow. Its system of operation is still very rigid, as far as its work environment goes. This rigid system is putting a lot of stress and strain on employees, and as a result, the quality of patient care is suffering.

Transformational leadership has the possibility to change all of that for the health care industry. Transformational leadership would allow physicians, who are the usual leaders in a healthcare environment, to get closer to their employees on a professional level, which would bring about more openness in the workplace. This openness would lead to dialogues between physicians and employees as to what everyone involved envisions the practice to be and what each person sees their role in the practice to be. This meaningful dialogue would lead to a more relaxed atmosphere in the workplace, and this is only a start.

In addition to fostering a more open working environment, transformational leadership in the healthcare industry would lead to a breaking down of the traditional hierarchical system that has kept physicians so removed from their employees. When physicians begin showing their employees individual compassion and concern, and begin celebrating the differences among them, employee satisfaction will rise. This will result in greater loyalty from employees, which will in turn lead to physicians being able to give employees greater trust and more freedom in taking initiative and risks in the workplace. This initiative and risk being taken will naturally lead to many improvements in the overall operation of the practice. In addition, physicians using a transformational leadership approach will be able to communicate a clear picture of the objectives of the practice, which employees will be happy to follow, as they will be given the room they need to be individuals in the operating of the practice. This will lead to not only greater employee satisfaction, but to greater patient satisfaction as well. This, of course, is the main need of the healthcare industry currently. Transformational leadership, when used in its true form, has the power to transform the healthcare industry for the better.