Essential Leadership Skills for Healthcare Administrators – Devin Morrissey

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The role of a healthcare administrator is to lead a healthcare organization on a successful path forward. However, the requirements of the job — the skills necessary for an individual to thrive within the role — are both static and changing.

At every level of the industry, administrators are juggling vast amounts of responsibility. At the top of the totem pole are those who are pushing for policy change and legislative change, and at the local level are those who run small organizations by directing dozens of organizational standards and healthcare professionals.

As the University of Cincinnati says in their overview of healthcare professionals, “Health care leaders not only need the customary skills expected of all business leaders, but also the ability to navigate highly political organizations evolving in response to new trends and priorities.”

Those who are truly able to take the organization they represent to the next level are those who are able to recognize that leading well means not only having a positive impact on those directly around them but also on the culture as a whole.

No matter the changes that impact the healthcare industry, there are some fundamental abilities that make it possible for every individual in administration to utilize in an effort to bring success and vitality. Leaders in the field are:

Business Smart

The healthcare industry is fraught with legal liability and regulation. A successful administrator will be adept at maintaining a current and comprehensive understanding of the legal standing.

Harvard Business School Professor Regina Herzlinger notes that, Sure, health care managers must be able to read financial statements; to understand how leaders get things done; she has to be very smart about competitive analysis and forging a strategy that considers realities and which way public policy is moving. She must also understand capital markets, group dynamics, and different kinds of leadership.”

Really, despite the modern consumer-driven approach to healthcare, that means that an administrator is going to need to apply every component of business smarts to make their organization a competitive one.

As Rutgers University notes performance analysis is important because it helps organizations:

  • Determine which of its programs should be continued, expanded or discontinued
  • Develop new programs that are better aligned to their goals and strategies
  • Monitor results to ensure that goals are being met
  • Identify areas of improvement
  • To inform stakeholders of progress made toward objectives
  • To solicit support from other entities that can help the organization achieve their mission

Patients are looking for providers and organizations that are going to provide the most efficient, accurate, and cost-effective care.

A skill that every health administrator must have is recognizing that patients are customers, and making sure that their organization operates in a manner that is competitive. Essentially, healthcare providers need to be assessing the performance of their organization and making meaningful changes that will allow it to continue to thrive well into the future.

Intuition Driven

While business skills help leaders operate in a manner that is tried and true, intuition is a skill that allows professionals to navigate the healthcare world so that they can respond to situations appropriately with little guidance.

In a piece for Forbes entitled Intuition Is An Essential Leadership Tool, Bonnie Marcus writes, “We are instructed to leave our emotions at home. There’s no room for ‘feelings’ in decision-making and business, but at the end of the day when we’ve reviewed the data over and over again and have asked others for their opinions, it’s our gut that is our best counsel.”

Essentially, healthcare administrative leaders that tackle challenges successfully are those who are willing to lean on more than just “the book.” Instead, they rely on the impressions and understanding that their personal skill and confidence bring.


Leaders are only leaders if they have behind them those willing to follow. Individuals follow leaders who instill principles of integrity and trust among everyone in an organization and continually work to cultivate those principals. From the dawn of time, those qualities have been a cornerstone of every worthwhile approach to leadership.

As we’ve noted before, “Without trust, and without the social bond that makes trust possible, it can be hard to share weekend plans with managers, let alone serious health issues. Whilst a manager’s role is to ensure the delivery of a process, service or similar, it is also their responsibility to motivate and inspire staff. Getting the most from staff members isn’t simply about working them hard.”


Thus, it’s crucial that healthcare administrators do what they can to establish the appropriate rapport not just with others that work within the same organization but also those who work at every level of the industry.


Tech Savvy

Leaders in healthcare administration are those who are able to adapt well to the ever-present changes and shifts within the industry. Healthcare is notorious for lagging behind other industries in areas such as the adoption of new technologies.


Administrators are on the frontlines of ensuring that their organization isn’t left behind, and the skills they have and apply must be relevant to the cultural context they find themselves in.


As the HIPAA Journal writes, “When it comes to implementing new technology, the healthcare industry lags behind every other industry sector. It is a well-known fact that the industry appears to resist change, even when those changes stand to significantly benefit patients.”


In many ways, this is shocking. Healthcare is the industry where changes can have the largest impact. The right change can literally save a life.


The right leader, will be willing to embrace the challenges that come with new technologies to help their organization move forward. True leaders will be able to look at the challenges facing healthcare, recognize potential solutions, and do what needs to be done to make them viable.


For example, blockchain is gaining momentum as a possible solution for the challenge of storing and securing healthcare-related data. There are a lot of potential benefits to its application. The right leadership will not only be able to visualize how to make it happen but will also lead the way in maintaining smart goals for their organization, specifically in terms of cybersecurity and related risks.


According to George Washington University, “An essential aspect of setting goals for an organization involves assessing risks associated with the strategy that a company has chosen.”


Thus, while blockchain may provide answers, it will inevitably also require that the organizations that adopt it also embrace adequate education and safety practices.


In an overall sense, good leadership is good at adapting. In healthcare, this specifically means that the new technologies that can allow healthcare to transcend its prior level of service will be adopted despite the obstacles in the way. Healthcare administrators are a pivotal part of that dynamic.


Succeeding as a healthcare administrator cannot be achieved without also succeeding as a leader. The skills that contribute to leadership do and will continue to prove priceless for administrators.


The job, in whatever specific capacity it exists, requires that an individual excel at both risk-taking and careful planning, collaboration and personal drive, and at relying on what experience and data prove, as well as at knowing when change is needed.