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By Monica E. Oss

What a week at the 2019 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat! I learned a lot about the challenges of value-based reimbursement (VBR) to non-profit board governance, the rising proportion of chief executive officers (CEO) of specialty provider organization executives getting ready to retire, the challenges of bringing trauma-informed care to scale, and much more. And, in a sense, these topics were the focus of my closing keynote, The Complexity Leadership Challenge: How To Prepare Your Organization—& Yourself—For Success In A New Era. I reviewed the structural changes shaping the field, the implications for strategy, and how best to position specialty provider organizations for the future. And, then I asked the audience the question—how prepared are they as executives to lead this change?

The challenge is that many fundamentals—the business models for behavioral health and primary care, reimbursement models, consumerism, and technology—are in motion. What is obvious is that most organizations will need new service lines and new market positioning for long-term sustainability.

While the specifics of that new market positioning will vary based on the consumers served and their service needs, the successful sustainable services will be the services with the highest value equation. Those services will most likely be community-based, tech-enabled, and consumer-centric. And the design, delivery, and management of those services will be driven by performance metrics, with performance defined by payer, health plan, and consumer customers.”

We’ve written a lot about how to plan for this “big leap” in market positioning. Essentials include a new approach to organizational strategy for sustainability and a rigorous approach to strategy implementation (see Coming Up With The Next Big Thing, Adjust Your Strategic Sails!, and Worried About The New Guys? Planning To Navigate Market Disruption). But, having the plan and preparing the organization for a successful evolution is only part of what is required. I’m a big believer in the Peter Drucker observation, “Strategy is a commodity and execution is an art.” The question for every executive is: are you also prepared to provide the strategic leadership needed for this transitional phase of your organization’s existence?

Strategic leadership is defined as the ability to handle complex problems for which there is no obvious short-term solution. While most executives in the health and human service field got to their current positions because of great transaction leadership skills (see Transformational & Transactional Leadership In Four Slides), success in the new environment requires new leadership talents. Strategic leadership—the ability to transform organizations in a complex environment—is key.

The good news is that strategic leadership can be learned and improved. Executives can practice the strategic leadership—and build their strategic leadership “muscle.” This is based on the concept of neuroplasticity, in which the brain can change, and self-directed neuroplasticity, or that we can make brain changes happen (for more check out Art Kleiner’s book, The Wise Advocate: The Inner Voice of Strategic Leadership).

I find that practiced and disciplined behavior, meditation, mindfulness, and visualization are keys to building your leadership skills. The issue for executives is how assess where they are with core strategic leadership practices and if they want to put in the hard work to move their leadership skills from the transactional to the transformational. If the answer is yes, there are some specific actions in decisionmaking and management that can enhance their strategic leadership skill set.

The fate of many organizations in the field will rise or fall based on the strategic leadership skills of their executive teams. Keep in mind the adage of Malcolm Forbes, “An organization can never rise above its leader.” For more on leadership topics, check out these articles and presentations in the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. Are You A Change Agent Leader? Take The Test
  2. The Complexity Challenge Keeping You Up At Night? Former Execs Advise. . .
  3. Leadership—The Other Talent Shortage
  4. The ‘Melting’ Value Chain: Best Practice Management (& Leadership) In An Era Of Change
  5. Who Do You Need To Lead An Agile Organization?
  6. Long-Distance Leadership
  7. Staff Not Performing? What Does That Mean?
  8. Don’t Overlook Culture For Success In Merging Organizations
  9. Collaboration, Connectivity & Complexity: Building A New Leadership Framework For A Value-Based Market
  10. Using A Meta-Leadership Approach For Value-Based Social Services

For more on how to successfully lead your organization, stay tuned over the next few days as we discuss leadership in the context of value-based reimbursement, changing regulations, and organizational challenges. You can follow us on twitter @openmindscircle #OMLeadership.

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