A new focus on the human element is changing the profile of the successful healthcare leader.

By Alexandre Sabbag

The future of public health, though uncertain, points to a more “human” approach to the management of people, emphasizing the skill to manage crises in highly dynamic scenarios while maintaining a clear sense of purpose.

People management is taking on growing importance in all sectors of the economy, acting as a key factor in the creation of value. In Brazil’s healthcare sector, the evolution of efficient and effective practices has made management more professional and sophisticated overall. In the current environment, people are at the center of corporate decisions, due to concerns for the physical and mental health of employees, suppliers and clients. Thus the human element emerges as both a “means” and an “end” for organizations.

This trend is likely to last as the crisis continues to accentuate the importance of humanization processes within healthcare institutions.

The “means” can be seen in the increasing importance of professionals whose work requires a high degree of courage as well as uninterrupted delivery. This includes not only doctors, who are generally well recognized, but also nurses and others charged with ensuring the quality of healthcare services.

The “end” lies in the purpose of organizations and businesses. Most younger employees, both inside and outside the healthcare sector, already held a sense of purpose as one of their principle career motivators. But the pandemic is serving as an acid test of purpose for the value propositions of organizations. We are seeing dramatic change, with managers prioritizating actions and reevaluating plans in light of human elements that place more value on the collective than the individual; for example with concerns for the environment, poorer communities and ethical themes. There will be less space for organizations or people without clear purposes.

So how do we envision the profile of successful healthcare leaders evolving? What will change, and what will stay the same? Amid so many changes, three areas stand out as most likely to evolve significantly: technology, risk, and leadership.

In technology, the acceptance of remote processes such as telemedicine, which has suddenly become commonplace, has accelerated. Most professionals once resisted such processes. But in a matter of weeks, many have come to see them as highly efficient, particularly in areas where physical contact is less relevant, for example in some phases of mental health treatment. Professionals who were already skilled with digitized processes are experiencing less stress from the pandemic’s effects on how they work.

As to risk, the management of biological risk has taken on extreme relevance, given the immense uncertainties of virus propagation. This requires professionals to constantly evaluate and reevaluate scenarios that impact the value chain of healthcare businesses. Professionals must be open not only to new technologies, but also to new ways of doing things. This demands a high level of flexibility and the ability to learn quickly.

Leadership is key to mobilizing people who are facing new demands and must receive motivation and direction on how to deal with adversity while continuing to deliver critical services. The current moment and near future will likely be characterized by uncertainty and crises; thus leaders who perform best will be those who can achieve qualitative and quantitative results despite ambiguous, fast-changing scenarios. As society more frequently confronts highly complex crises, such leaders will be the most highly valued.

The most successful leaders in the healthcare sector will be those who are also able to constantly read internal and external factors. This skill will enable them to effectively combine their strategic direction with the agility and sensitivity needed to meet the market’s changing needs. If they focus on the security of processes and speed of decisions, while incorporating the possibilities presented by science and technology, they will bring even more value to the healthcare system.

The future of management in the healthcare sector is not completely clear, but we know that the competencies of crisis management and rapid problem-solving will be critical for success. We can also see a market that increasingly demands purpose. Thus organizations will tend to seek out leaders who can develop teams that are capable of managing risk and inserting a genuinely human sensibility into their operations.

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