What defines legacy in healthcare leadership? What can emerging and current healthcare executives learn from contemporary and historical healthcare leaders about building a legacy? How can watershed moments, including worldwide crises like pandemics, present unique opportunities for leaders to improve societal health and leave an indelible mark? And how can healthcare leaders keep building a legacy top of mind, especially during challenging and pivotal times?
Legacy, loosely defined
In its truest sense, legacy has little to do with ego; true leaders embody legacy in the most altruistic sense of the word.
Legacy can mean “something transmitted by or received from a predecessor or from the past.” Interestingly, legacy emerged from the Latin legatus, meaning “person delegated, ambassador, envoy, deputy” – all of which are strikingly close in meaning to the word leader.
A leader is uniquely positioned to build a legacy.
What defines legacy in healthcare leadership?
It is challenging to pinpoint legacy in healthcare leadership. Legacy may be dependent on personality, talents, philosophy, beliefs, or community, so each leader can consider what legacy means within his or her sphere. Here are some thoughts on what legacy in healthcare can mean:
- Implementing innovative procedures, services, and technology
- Supporting research and expanding the healthcare knowledge base
- Saving a struggling healthcare system from bankruptcy or financial ruin
- Improving a company’s finances and operations and setting it up for lasting success
- Streamlining service delivery and improving the quality and safety of healthcare
- Increasing access to care for underserved patients and communities
- Creating a culture that supports diversity and equity
- Transforming a hospital’s work atmosphere from one of burnout to fulfillment
- Mentoring emerging healthcare leaders
- Developing and implementing new leadership philosophies and methods
- Building an anchor institution within a community
- Supporting the economy by providing employment opportunities
- Forging partnerships and alliances with other healthcare organizations
- Leading local, state, or national policy changes
What can emerging healthcare executives learn about building a legacy from historical and current healthcare leaders?
Although there is an array of interpretations for leaving a legacy in health care, there’s no doubt when someone has achieved it.
Historically, we can look to Dr. Thomas Bond and Benjamin Franklin, whose legacy includes the creation of the nation’s first hospital in the 1750s in Pennsylvania. There’s also Father Charles Moulinier of Marquette University School of Medicine, who helped pioneer educational programs in healthcare administration in the 1920s. Or consider Mary Breckenridge, whose legacy includes bringing healthcare to rural areas by establishing the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) in 1925.
Today, there are lists of current influential healthcare leaders (published by the likes of Becker’s, Modern Healthcare, Johns Hopkins, and more). Many of these executives will leave an impressive legacy and change the future of healthcare. How do they do it?
How do successful healthcare leaders build legacies, especially during worldwide crises?
Here are some observations of what sets these leaders apart and how they turn challenges into opportunities to make a mark:
- Leaders who build legacies focus on today. Although they have long-term goals and vision for their organization, they do the next right thing, while holding those values in mind.
- They know how much their organization means to the community. They realize that their organization is more than just a healthcare facility. It is an essential element in the economy – for patients, families, providers, staff, and society.
- They are authentic. They strive for transparency, honesty, empathy, open communication, and collaboration. They admit mistakes but see them as opportunities for growth and change.
- They are innovative. They pair their organization’s vision, mission, and values with their own ingenuity, and they work to generate and implement new ideas through teamwork.
- They are strong. They are professional and confident. They push past fear and remain resilient. They continually feed, cultivate, and refine their leadership skills.
- They stay informed. They are engaged in the lifelong study of administration, finance, strategy, organization, systems, personnel management, and more.
- They are resourceful. They know how to generate resources to implement ideas. They realize people are their best asset, and they know how to motivate teams.
- They emerge during crises. When the pressure is on, leaders show up. When society turns to its leaders during taxing times, true leaders arise.
Learn more about how we can help your organization find legacy-building leadership. Connect with Cejka Search.