CVForward  >  Embracing the Benefits of Servant Leadership



Kevin C. “Casey” Nolan

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Renowned management consultant Peter Drucker described hospitals and healthcare systems as being the most complex organizations in society. That incredible complexity creates a situation where no one individual can know all the answers. This is why Kevin C. "Casey" Nolan, Managing Director of Navigant Consulting, feels a servant leadership style can yield many benefits for leaders in the CV service line.

"Servant leadership is a different approach to being a leader," says Casey. "It is viewing your role as helping serve the purpose of the organization—being a facilitator and an integrator. Collective knowledge is where you'll come up with a much better solution than the classic, old-line leader, sitting in his or her office, trying to think big thoughts."

As CV service line leaders face the ongoing challenges presented by today’s healthcare environment, servant leadership is a philosophy and leadership style that may be worth exploring.

Casey lays out some core principles for practicing servant leadership.

Start by Listening

A core principle of servant leadership is listening to all members of the team. A good servant leader should openly communicate with their team, both formally and informally, on a regular basis. What problems are they encountering? What changes should we be making? What concerns are top-of-mind?

Collective knowledge is an essential tool for success in the CV service line, and listening is the core behavior to build that knowledge. A clear, continuous, open line of communication is the lifeline of a servant leader.

"You’ve got two ears and one mouth—so you’ve got to listen twice as much as you speak."

Kevin C. “Casey” Nolan
Managing Director
Navigant Consulting, Inc.

Talk to Patients

The patient experience is critical to the success of any service line, so as a servant leader, getting first-hand knowledge is important. Patients can provide insight on what is working and what is not. They will often gladly share what they believe should be done differently.

A servant leader will want to participate in rounding, team huddles, and patient check-ins to gain first-hand knowledge of the patient experience. As a servant leader, it’s important to speak to the people the CV service line is ultimately serving: patients.

Be Open to Challenges

Typically, with command-and-control leadership, all efforts are made to ensure the original plan is followed from start to finish. Servant leadership is about being open to what is or is not working and then changing course accordingly.

A servant leader is ready to address unexpected challenges and, in collaboration with the entire team, improve and evolve the plan of action.

Servant leaders accept that their original plans often require course correction along the way. They are open to suggestions on how the original plan can be improved upon.

Casey recommends “pre-mortems”

“Post-mortems” are standard procedure in the hospital setting. But there is great value to be gained by executing what is called a “pre-mortem.” Casey explains:

“When you have a new initiative you're going to launch, sit down before you start and say to the team: ‘Let's fast forward 2 years. Let’s pretend the initiative has crashed and burned. It's been an unmitigated disaster. What would have been the cause?’”

Identifying the factors that could go wrong and lead to failure provides invaluable information. It highlights some of the risks before the project even starts. From the start, efforts can be made to mitigate those risks before they even begin to go wrong.

However, “pre-mortems” will only succeed if they are led by someone who is open to facing challenges candidly.

Provide Updates

A servant leader is one that is constantly reporting to the people they oversee. It’s not enough to simply ask people for their ideas and opinions—it is important to provide constant progress reports. People want to know if their ideas were heard and if those ideas have gained traction in the organization.

Providing constant updates to the team on their ideas and input demonstrates that their participation is valued. It creates a greater atmosphere of inclusion and one in which people will continue to share ideas.

A core goal of servant leadership is to create ownership among the team, and providing frequent updates on their contributions is a powerful way to do this.

Solving complex problems facing today’s CV service lines

With increasing frequency, CV service line leaders face multidimensional problems. “There isn't just a strategic problem,” Casey says. “There isn't just a clinical problem. There isn't just an operational problem. There isn't just a financial problem. It's all of those things, and cardiovascular leaders have to solve for the whole thing.”

Servant leadership allows you to unleash a powerful procession of multiple brains all coming at a problem from different perspectives. When executed correctly, servant leadership will help foster a team-based atmosphere, deliver better solutions, help develop great alignment, and ultimately provide better care.



Related Content

Visit these websites for more helpful information from other industry thought leaders.

Performing a Project Premortem

By Gary Klein

This article in the Harvard Business Review goes into great detail about a tool that is a hallmark of servant leadership.

10 Traits of a Drucker-Like Leader

By Leigh Buchanan

CV service line leaders can compare their leadership styles to the renowned Peter Drucker.

Planning for the Ideal Cath Lab Requires the Multidisciplinary Approach

By Beth Walsh

This article from Cardiovascular Business describes some key principles that are more essential than ever toward achieving success in the CV service line.

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