The health care sector has become quite attracted to idea of transformational leadership.

It’s no wonder. What’s not to like? It is an inspirational approach that emphasizes the core values of work. Health care, being very much a value-driven kind of work is quite taken with its fit with this approach.

Transformational leadership has to do with change. Ideally, the team’s approach to work changes for the better: people become more engaged, enthusiastic, and productive.

For health care leaders the medium through which they work the magic of transformation is their relationships with people. Being a transformational leader goes beyond being pleasant company or an attentive companion. It’s interacting with a purpose. That is, it’s not enough to hope that being kind to your colleagues will inspire them to embrace the core values of your team; a transformational leader hopes to inspire enthusiasm for the workgroup’s core values.

So, how do leaders make values relevant?

  1. Talk about it. Talk about it a lot. If workplace safety is an issue, leaders start meetings talking about safety. They may assign a member to bring a safety tip to start the next team meeting.
  2. Respond. A telling question on our safety survey concerns the supervisors’ response to breaches of safety procedures. In some units, the response was quick and definitive: let’s review how we transfer patients on this unit. On other units, the response was absent: supervisors just didn’t seem to notice.
  3. Link values to action. Effective leaders not only walk their talk, they guide employees towards ways to integrate core values into their work. Sometimes employees need help making the connection; sometimes they need reminding of the importance of doing so.

Being a transformational leader is a little bit about charisma; it’s a lot more about relationships.

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