Leaders are often identified by their actions during very stressful times for their organizations. Therefore, this discussion on the leadership is essential at a time when the house of medicine is facing many challenges to its status quo.

Higher Quality for Less Cost

Molecular and genetic testing are very promising for the house of medicine and for society. The promise of the new technology has accelerated the demand for application of these tests to most all disease processes.

Concurrently, society is being pressed to find ways to control and reduce cost in healthcare. Policymakers are struggling with a wide variety of cost control initiatives while increasing the demand for providers to document higher and higher quality outcomes.

Quick Fix Solutions

These challenges of increased quality, better science and lower cost are translated as wide-scale "disruptions" for the healthcare delivery system. The danger in this scenario is that pathologists and laboratories will begin to reach out for quick fix solution.

This reality is supported by observation that more and more practices are considering giving up their independence and joining their health systems or joining in some arrangement with the nation’s large commercial laboratories. We should not feel that these changes are unique to pathology and laboratory medicine. We are not alone; our observation is that this scenario is being played out in every aspect of clinical medicine.

Opportunity for the Future

However, this is a time for excellent leadership emergence within an organization, the so called “leaders under fire” concept. Individuals who prove their skills in stressful situations most often go on to become the best, most trusted members of their organization.

Some pathologist and lab directors will recognize that there is opportunity in these disruptive changes. Practices with members and staff who have strong business and leadership skills will direct their focus downstream for the long-haul opportunity that new science offers.

These leaders will recognize several steps to success in this environment. It starts with practices empowering a leader who is willing to change hats and become a practice director, who will begin to build a long-term strategy for his practice.

Expectations of a Leader

Others expectations of leaders during this time of disruption such as honesty, transparency, candor, accessibility and effective communications form the core values leaders must exhibit. Leaders predictably, over time develop an expectation profile with their colleagues. Wavering from these expectations can quickly destroy confidence of colleagues.

The issue of consistency is a challenge for all leaders. Consider the example, some issue is being negotiated, but early discussion with others may spoil the deal. Successful leaders develop the agility to maneuver through these times. Should the leader falter he/she puts their credibility in jeopardy.

Leaders are often judged by such simple measures and typically fall into one of four categories.

Four Leadership Categories

  1. Poor leaders are not able to manage the practice’s disruption to colleagues’ expectations.
  2. Fair leaders often are able to frame issues in a big picture way, but leave colleagues with unmet expectations.
  3. Good leaders are able to communicate the issues clearly, lay out the drivers of change as they occur, listen to concerns, and communicate the organizational plan of action for mitigating the disruptive events. These leaders are often able to build an understanding of the state of change activity.
  4. Great leaders do all the right things a good leader does, as he/she moves a giant step forward. A great leader builds consensus and advocacy. He/she successfully builds commitment among colleagues to assist in driving change. Great leaders succeed in sustaining support through regular issue updates and managing others in the work of change. This is what moves our leaders from the good to great status.

A further observation is that the sooner the practice makes the decision that they will move forward and compete, the more likely they will be to succeed. We will see those practices with the most developed business and management structures become the early leaders and winners in this environment.

A cautionary note: The level of transformation necessary for success will be costly, and at the end of the day, this is a big challenge for most practices. I fervently believe that with skilled leadership most practices will be able to achieve success and maintain their independence.

Often change is not pretty; but with great leadership, many organizations successfully define their future roles. Isn't that ultimately what we all want? So now let us do what pathologists like to do best, tear these comments apart and give them a reality check. Yes, this is step one in becoming a great leader.


About the author

McKesson Business Performance Services offers services and consulting to help hospitals, health systems, and physician practices improve business performance, boost margins and transition successfully to value-based care.