Leadership: Ignited from within

My experience in health care leadership during the past 40-plus years has taught me many lessons.

When I first started out, people talked about becoming a leader as an accomplishment — a goal met — check that off the list and go to your next goal. Some made it seem like it was rocket science and, of course, if you achieved status as a leader, you wore the suit to show it.

Most of us followed whatever direction the leader gave with little questioning and trusted it was right. So who was assessing the leader’s effectiveness?

Quantitative achievements such as managing budget, exceeding revenue projections and success with new initiatives were a measure of their effectiveness, but they don’t fully encompass what it is to be successful as a leader. Leadership is not an endpoint; it is a journey.

Yes, it is important to meet these types of organizational goals, and they are part of the responsibilities of a leader. But true leadership effectiveness or presence is measured by your relationships and your ability to develop others. The number one goal of a truly effective leader is to recognize the sparks of potential in those around them, at every level of the organization, and to stoke those sparks into a blaze.

Investment in this type of leadership is the foundation for organizational success. Changing our focus from not just what we do, but how and why we do it creates a ripple effect that is felt throughout the organization. When we all know our “why” and focus intentionally on how we influence and complement each other, the return on investment is a strong, positive, cohesive employee culture. This unity of purpose and recognition of the value of diverse personalities and skill sets leads to staff retention and exceptional customer service, which will result in a better bottom line.

To grow these sparks of potential, it is important to build a safe, supportive environment. Growth involves vulnerability, identifying areas for improvement. Remember, individually, we are all incomplete. No one is equipped to handle every situation optimally. We benefit from the differences in each of our personalities.

In my experience, one of the most effective tools to support a culture of leadership is individual leadership coaching. This is personalized, one-on-one coaching that focuses on the individual’s goals and their supervisor’s goals for their growth and development.

Once their goals are defined, the coach spends intentional time with the individual enhancing their self-awareness and exploring leadership behaviors that will elevate their overall effectiveness.

After a few coaching sessions, it is helpful to have the individual take a leadership assessment. One of the most effective assessments I have used identifies specific behavioral tendencies that influence their success in leadership responsibilities including establishing a shared vision or goal, achieving team alignment and successfully executing the goals of the team. This assessment identifies specific areas where they can increase their effectiveness by exercising specific leadership muscles or behaviors.

These results become part of the one-on-one coaching discussion. The results enhance self-awareness and the coach helps move them toward meeting their personal and professional goals by becoming a more effective and successful leader.

Being an effective leader is a continuous process. Our teams, our goals and our environments are perpetually changing. No matter how experienced a leader might be, they should still be engaged in their self-awareness and self-development and understand how they can complement the abilities of the team to achieve shared success.

Check yourself by asking after every real-time interaction or situation: Did I contribute to the other person’s or my team’s success, and, if not, what will I hold myself accountable to do differently next time? This ongoing self-evaluation is the mark of true leadership effectiveness.

There is nothing more rewarding than contributing to the growth of others and seeing that growth translate into real results for your team, organization and community.

Be the leader to ignite the fire in others.