Rethinking Leadership and Collaboration in an Age of Global Crisis

By Richard Corbridge

The most valuable asset for any healthcare system in 2020 is the people that work at every level within them.

Considerable thought should be given in determining which roles are needed to create agility in any organization. Success often hinges on the way these roles interact. However, the problem we need to fix is how to facilitate collaboration without ego and concentrate on creating a safe, efficient, and patient-centred health ecosystem.

The way roles interact is as important as the actions and attributes of the roles themselves. If we get the roles—and the places where they intersect—right, we can build a foundation for enduring success.

Experience Matters in the Consumer Economy

Healthcare is competing for the time and attention of consumers. More than seeking a service, these customers expect an “experience.” Is your organization prepared to deliver?

According to Jeremy Scrivens, an appreciative futurist and researcher based in Australia, the answer is likely “no.”

“Between 10 percent to 20 percent of the resources in your organisation really wants to deliver today! Or, to word it differently, only 20 percent of your organization really wants to deliver today,” he notes.

That doesn’t mean your colleagues don’t want the organization to be successful in its mission. It means that only 20 percent of the people you work with can see the route to creating value for the people willing to pay for it.

That is why lean, agile organizations need to grow beyond the willing-and-ready 20 percent to the entire organization.

It’s never been harder to lead a team and appeal to every type, nor has it ever been more necessary. The desire to become frictionless is described every day and yet it is a paradox. Organizations don’t want friction, but as a leader we are taught to run toward it, embrace conflict, and understand how to get the most from it, how to turn it into a catalyst for positive change.

Building the valued and sought-after growth mindset in an agile world should be easier, but nurturing a growth mindset is hard work. A growth mindset requires you and me to build a new focus, and that is hard to understand in an ever-changing environment such as healthcare.

The New Leaders, Defined

There are new definitions of leadership types making a difference in many organizations today. Each leadership type has an impact on the social architecture of the culture. It’s worth exploring them as we try to create a sense of collaboration.

Credible Activist: This leader wants to see, feel, smell, and hear change—not tomorrow but right now. “What do you mean we need to go through governance first?” is the high note of their clarion call. We need “just do it” people in every team. The COVID-19 crisis is no better a time to consider whether the right governance is in place—but there is a need for some governance, or anarchy will take over. Listen, but apply a small pause to the credible activist in you or your team.

Compliance Manager: This leader needs an answer from all parties before taking the leap of faith. The role that will keep us straight, keep us in the black, and keep the wolves at bay when something goes wrong. But the role that can also be too slow. Health systems of the world are told to take no risk, to do no harm, and to be compliant. However, some risks will need to be taken in order to find the innovations that will lead us to a new normal. Therefore, deploying this person in the right way is crucial for fruitful collaboration.

Culture and Change Champion: This leader can see how the organization needs to change and wants to lead the change. By example, this leader will help the team become the model of agility but may not want to stop there. The next type of change will also be in their mind. While change may be inevitable, this leader needs a pause button every so often.

Analyst Designer and Interpreter: This role will often be someone who does not want to be bothered with strategy or the bigger picture, but when you are ready to get down to the detail of interpreting what is needed, they won’t stop until they have delivered. The caution needed with these leaders is a tendency toward tunnel vision. These leaders need to see the big picture, but they will be a loyal resource to the cause.

Total Rewards Steward: This leader is a magpie for new ideas. They will adopt or take existing resources or behaviours and will ensure that whatever they lead will bring maximum rewards to as many as possible. I believe this role is key for some projects, as it keeps going when others would give up. When they can clearly see something is right, they don’t give up trying to convince everyone that they can change the world.

Technology and Media Integrator: This leader is all about the art of the possible. This role, done well, will have the skills to share successes and lessons learned, and acquire them in return. The champion of the blueprint and the connoisseur of collaboration—and a role I have had by my side throughout my career thus far.

Human Capital Curator: This leader can take a team of competent individuals and, through empowerment and allowance for the possibility of failure, challenge the status quo. This role is definitely an enabler for change and transformation.

Collaborative Sense Maker: Collaboration is how we—humankind—will still be here in years to come. Some challenges—from healthcare access to climate change—can only be surmounted through collaboration. The next innovative idea you have, share it with someone who isn’t the usual person you would share with and watch it evolve in a new way—that’s collaborative sense-making in action!

Wisdom at Scale: This is a great role in any organization. The beauty of someone doing this role well is that they never stop learning. More importantly, they swoop in at the right moment to apply that wisdom to scale and bring whatever is required to the room—sensibility, rationale, nuclear thinking. Organizations need a great person in this role to change and be different and, most importantly, to empower leaders and then protect what they are going after.

Symphonic Thinking

Each of these roles are new takes on soft skills. But when you pull them together like this, you can see what is needed and where the gaps are in your team or organization.

We need these new ways of thinking about skill sets, but not for titles and job descriptions. We need to set our organizations apart from the next by creating new platforms, resources, and a new way of thinking in concert with each other.

These skills are how we augment new technology—from considering ethics in the use of artificial intelligence to grappling with the implications of automation in healthcare. Moving from looking at platforms as technology to applying technology to the skills we need is just as important as getting the new technology right.

We need to move away from the regimentation of our approaches. Every problem is a multi-disciplinary problem and we need to bring our collaboration to the forefront to achieve the most.

According to Jeremy Scrivens, only 13 percent of the global workforce finds true meaning in their work. These people are engaged from the heart, not the head.

As leaders trying to make change happen, we need to find ways to harness skills for better collaboration and the social good. Most managers and leaders have been taught engagement skills that can work. We know how to “play nice,” so let’s turn that into a collaboration starting point.

Richard Corbridge, a globally recognized expert in healthcare strategy and digital technology, is chief information officer at Boots UK. He can be reached via LinkedIn and Twitter at @r1chardatron.

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