21s Century Leadership: Healthcare Organizations

– By Dr. Terrence D. Duncan, DBA, MBA


Dr. Terrence D. Duncan, holds a Doctor of Business Administration degree from Walden University. He also holds a Masters of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Health Care Management. Dr. Duncan has two of his works published in health care related matters. With 10 years of experience as a claims adjuster for a third party administrator and Director of Safety, these combined level of experiences have benefited clients in numerous industries.

As a Divisional Director of Safety for one of the largest private skilled rehab company in the country, he has managed the safety and worker’s compensation administration for 40 skilled rehab centers and assisted living communities in four states. Dr. Duncan also carries solid worker’s compensation experience and knowledge in the following jurisdictions: IA, IL, IN, KY, KS, MO, and NE.

Dr. Duncan currently owns and operates a risk management and human resources consulting company, J.I Enterprises. The company specializes in lowering costs by providing quality solutions from providing recommendations in risk management, human resources, and worker’s compensation. His efforts have produced thousands of dollars in savings to clients in claim costs and mitigating unnecessary costs found through litigation.

The workplace and its employees have changed dramatically in the 21st century. Due to the advent of numerous social technology apps, smartphones, and selfies, the typical employee profile has evolved to a more dynamic and diverse individual. A more dynamic and diverse employee understands the importance of self. As a result, their individuality is projected into the workplace. The challenge of management is to not only meet key operational objectives, but to retain employees and adapt new ways to promote leadership.

In order to identify and interact with this new age employee, management should rethink their ways of leadership as the speed of communication and expectations have evolved amongst the average employee. Leadership is not as linear as it was in the past. Despite many books, seminars, and lectures concerning how to lead, those in management should consider a style that is most befitting of their personality, as well as understanding the dynamic make-up of the workplace.


The typical healthcare system consists of multiple positions and skill sets. Each position is similar to a spoke in a wheel that can only move if the manager is willing to bring each spoke into a synergistic effort. For example, in a nursing home, staff consists of CNAs, RNs, laundry, maintenance, housekeepers, dietary, admissions, and business office personnel. Outside of providing quality customer service to meet each resident’s needs, as well as provide solid operational results, leadership is a quality that cannot be provided through company policies or manuals. For this discussion, I propose three methods of how managers can improve their leadership in healthcare organizations within different skill sets of employees.

Communication with Clarity and Purpose

As a leader of the healthcare organization, communication is vital in administering quality of care to patients. Communication is vital to employee as well.  I recommend becoming clear in communicating your expectations of the staff collectively, and finding the time to communicate your vision and core objectives to each staff member. Staff are aware of most company policies and procedures; however, in healthcare, staff cannot provide quality care if the manager cannot provide quality care to their staff.

Effective Listening Means Patience

In healthcare settings, there truly is not a finite ending of a day. Once a task or project is completed, another one is on the horizon.  Despite all the demands placed on a manager’s desk and related deadlines, you must set aside time to listen to your staff’s concerns and needs. Realistically, you will likely not be able to address all their concerns; however, listening to them with a clear mind sends a message of compassion to your staff. Use your open door policy to ask about their day outside of work to show that you place value into their world outside of the workplace. Even if staff is noncommittal about discussing their world outside of work, you show interest in their well-being. This concern plays an underlining role into developing a chemistry between you and the staff member which results in higher performance.

Remove the Title and Become One with Staff

Despite the title on your name badge, take time to become personable. Do not only walk the floor, make sure you take the time to interact with staff regardless of their position or title. Staff reacts to relatability and a genuine personality. By appearing more “common” to your staff, your actions provide a belief that you are on their side. Even when it becomes time to discipline staff, they understand that you are not doing this to be spiteful. Instead, you are doing so because you are required to do so, and they were required to do their job.

Although there are numerous strategies in maximizing the efforts and talents of your staff it is important that your staff needs your leadership and guidance in moving the organizational vision forward. In a world of selfies and individuality, management must learn how to lead by incorporating their individual strengths into an organizational benefit. In this current economy where wages are relatively repressed and raises are not guaranteed, the emotional value of their position should be maximized to improve your organization’s efficiency.



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