Essential Leadership Competencies: Now and Beyond

A recent discussion with a CEO and a prospective CEO provided an opportunity to reflect on the competencies for current leaders and strengths needed for the future. Regardless of what one reads albeit emails or journals or one attends national meetings, it becomes increasingly apparent that there are many people who are planning for retirement in the near future. Based on this assumption, two questions come to mind: 1) how many organizations are prepared for the exit of skilled and wise leaders, and 2) who and what is planned to fill those shoes?

Beginning in January 2017, there seemed to be an increasing number of announcements of health care leaders who plan on retiring.

J. Lindsey Bradley Jr. will retire as senior vice president of group operations and CEO for Irving, Texas-based Christus Health’s Northeast Texas region.

Orangeburg, S.C.-based Regional Medical Center announced the retirement of Brenda Williams, vice president of strategy and compliance.

Boca Raton (Fla.) Regional Hospital President and CEO Jerry Fedele and COO Karen Poole, BSN, are planning to retire.

Portland, Ore.-based Legacy Health President and CEO George J. Brown, MD, is retiring, after serving as leader of the health system for nearly a decade.

Medford-based Providence Medical Group-Southern Oregon Chief Executive Cindy Mayo, MSN, is retiring in August.

Ascension Healthcare CEO Robert Henkel to retire in June 2017

SSM Health CEO to retire in 2017

Adeptus Health CEO Thomas Hall to retire by mid-2017

OSF HealthCare CEO Kevin Schoeplein to Retire at End of 2017

Legacy Health CEO Brown announces retirement

The above announcements are just a few of the talented leaders who will retire. The first step for the selection of the next generation of leaders involves responding to some questions:

  1. Is health care prepared for the loss? If yes, wonderful! If not, why not and now what?
  2. Does your organization have a succession plan? If yes, that’s great, but what is the plan to assure these leaders are ready for the next step in their career? If no, what is your plan?
  3. Are there internal leaders who can be appointed as a means of facilitating a smooth transition or will you need to recruit externally? If external recruiting is required, what will be done in the interim? How long do you anticipate the recruitment process will take? What is the cost for recruiting leaders?
  4. What qualities will be required of new leaders? A transactional or transformative leader. A filtered or unfiltered leader. Health care experience or no health care experience.


The health care landscape is changing so quickly that it is almost impossible to keep up with the transformation. If this assumption is spot on, the following conclusions may apply:

  1. Past leadership competencies will most likely not work for the future.
  2. Future leaders should learn from the lessons of the past and not repeat mistakes.
  3. Taking calculated risks will be essential for survivability.
  4. Building relationships internally and externally is indispensable.
  5. Innovation will create an organization that thrives into the future.
  6. Always do what is right for the consumer.

10 Core Competencies

Leadership competencies are skills and behaviors that support and sustain superior performance. The expectations for future leaders (those leaders being mentored now and aspiring to new leadership positions within the next couple of years) consist of the following:

  1. Embrace new models such as Tipping Point Leadership which shifts thinking and strategy (ies) to lower costs, focuses on the people, actions and endeavors that disproportionately affects performance.
  2. Move from a transactional to a transformative model such as has been developed by Kim and Maubourne called the Red Ocean Strategy (transactional) and graduating to the Blue Ocean Strategy (transformative) or What if thinking.
  3. A willingness to adapt successful practices from other industries to health care.
  4. Invite “outsiders”, those who have not been in health care for their entire careers into leadership roles.
  5. Be courageous. Listen more than talk; be humble. Bring out the best in others.
  6. Clarity about self. Self-awareness= High emotional intelligence.
  7. No one is promised tomorrow; grow your replacement.
  8. Identify your end game; be a forward thinker who is not content with the status quo.
  9. Reward innovation even if those innovations fail.
  10. Be prepared for more change after the current change occurs.

If you would like more information, please contact.

Author: Diane Bradley, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, FACHE, FACHCA, Regional Chief Clinical Officer, HealthTechS3

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