born leaderExecutives in healthcare and other industries are always interested in how to find and develop the next wave of organizational leaders; and both hiring and coaching processes are focused on pinpointing individuals with the right skills. If you think that leaders are born rather than developed, you might rely more heavily on recruitment to find these stars and not attempting to develop leaders in-house.

Nature: Charisma as a Genetic Trait

According to several studies, including one from Aston University, charisma — an important trait of strong leaders — may be genetic.  Charisma, and the value that charismatic leaders bring to the table, is a major component of powerful transformational leadership. This study linked charisma to certain genes; further, the results show that individuals with certain genetic markers may be unable to show enough charisma to display strong leadership skills.

The Aston data backs the idea of the “natural-born leader” — someone who steps into a team or project and has followers within days or weeks.  Another study, this one from neuropsychologist, Steve Suomi, at the National Institute of Health, approaches the issue from a different perspective — confidence. The study reveals that some people are genetically predisposed to be more confident than others, a top trait shared by leaders.

Nurture: Coaching the Next Leadership Line

While it may be true that some people are born to lead, inherent behavioral competencies, such as confidence and charisma don’t necessarily make a leader, particularly in healthcare. Leaders in hospitals and other healthcare environments need specific skills and knowledge, as well as the ability to make difficult decisions and manage those in stressful situations. Many times, healthcare organizations must appoint clinicians to leadership roles, and doctors and nurses are not always ready for executive leadership duties. Because of these truths about healthcare leadership, coaching is a necessity, regardless of the nature or nurture question.

Measuring Behavioral Competencies for Leadership Potential

Focusing on measurable skills alone, such as education, and previous professional experience during the hiring process isn’t enough to make sure someone is going to be an effective leader. Healthcare organizations should also focus on personal characteristics that are predictive of leadership potential. Variability in these capabilities exists and can be measured before an offer is made. To help healthcare organizations hire leaders for cultural fit, consider using behavioral-based assessments to  focus on two domains:

  • Biographical Data: Information on past behavior, life experiences, and feelings about specific situations, which serves as an indication of habitual commitment.
  • Personality: Stable characteristics that help identify behavioral tendencies that influence staying or leaving a job.

Research conducted by Dr. Frederick Morgeson, Eli Broad Professor of Management at Michigan State University and Scientific Advisor at HealthcareSource, has found that strong relationships exist between these competencies and certain key behaviors to focus on when selecting employees. For example, a strong relationship exists between emotional evenness and even tempered/calm tendencies, which are critical leadership qualities needed during times of crisis.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that a behavioral competency-based approach to leadership selection is an effective way to identify and cultivate leaders who display the necessary behaviors to be successful in healthcare. HealthcareSource Leadership AssessmentSM scores leaders on ten critical competencies that encompass the best leadership qualities for healthcare:

  • Achievement Orientation
  • Conscientiousness
  • Emotional Evenness
  • Openness to Change
  • Self-Confidence
  • Innovative Thinking
  • Multi-Tasking
  • Self-Development
  • Customer Orientation
  • Critical Thinking

By incorporating behavioral-based assessment software into the leadership selection process, healthcare organizations can evaluate new candidates and internal talent on the competencies and behaviors critical for success as a leader in the healthcare industry.

Behavioral-based assessments and behavioral interviewing techniques that gauge an individual’s personality characteristics, such as: customer service capabilities, critical thinking, compassion, willingness to learn, and adaptability, allow healthcare HR practitioners to form a first impression of possible leadership potential before bringing the candidate in for an in-person interview.  This helps to reduce time spent on interviews with less qualified candidates and the personalized interview questions allow hiring managers to probe into the real strengths and weaknesses of each applicant.

Leadership training and coaching is always going to be part of your talent management processes, but you can stack the deck in your favor by hiring those who possess the inherent behavioral competencies that are essential for effective leadership.


Are you interested in learning how leading healthcare organizations are using behavioral-based assessments? Download our white paper:

Identifying Today’s High Performers & Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders: Leveraging Behavioral Assessments for Healthcare Talent Management

In this white paper, you’ll learn how healthcare organizations can revolutionize the way they attract, assess, select, and develop their workforce. 

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Meghan Doherty

About Meghan Doherty

Meghan Doherty is a content marketing professional based in the Greater Boston area. She has more than five years of experience creating and managing content for SaaS companies in the healthcare and talent management spaces.