3 Traits to Help Identify Inclusive Leaders

January 30, 2023 – It’s a common mission in today’s healthcare organizations to build inclusive and diverse leadership teams, knowing that these leaders truly set the tone for the organization as a whole. At the core of everything, for a healthcare organization to truly succeed, providers and staff must be treated equitably; patients and family members must be valued and respected; and the greater community must know their local facility is a safe place to seek and obtain medical care. While we know it is paramount to hire individuals who are adept at illuminating inequities, generating solutions, and propelling change, the question becomes how to identify such transformative candidates, says Cejka Search in a new report.

“In a circumstance where inclusivity and diversity practices are already well established at the executive level, healthcare organizations can support existing and emerging leaders in developing and strengthening inclusive leadership skills through initiatives like diversity, equity, and inclusion training, and a strong succession planning program,” said the search firm.

“However, when it’s time to bring on new executive leadership, decision-makers and executive recruiters can search for prospective candidates who already have an inclusive mindset – a leader who can demonstrate their approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion through previous experience, innovative ideas, and demonstrable traits.”

While the combination of traits that make a leader successful at inclusivity vary from individual to individual, patterns have emerged. The following are a few traits that Cejka Search believes are essential to screen for when evaluating executive candidates for healthcare leadership positions:

1. Visible Commitment

A study in the Harvard Business Review identified the most critical trait of inclusive leadership as visible commitment. The research showed that inclusive leaders “articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.” The researchers also reported that what leaders say and do can make up to a 70 percent difference in whether an individual feels included. That’s why it’s essential that leaders not only be committed but also be vocal about their commitment, said Cejka Search

In addition to visible commitment, the Harvard Business Review article identified humility, awareness of bias, curiosity about others, cultural intelligence, and effective collaboration as other traits of inclusive leaders; however, the researchers cautioned that without visible commitment, the other traits cannot be fully developed.

During the executive interview process, decision-makers and executive recruiters can ask candidates to cite specific instances in which they showed visible commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their lives and careers, said Cejka Search.

2. Representative of Diversity in Leadership

Inclusive leaders are those who are eager to make hiring decisions that more accurately reflect the diversity of their patients, the workforce, and the community, said the Cejka Search report. They also include those who themselves enrich the diversity within the executive leadership circle.

“Increased diversity among healthcare professionals can help expand access to care for all patients, according to studies on racial concordance,” said the search firm. “However, statistics show that diversity among healthcare professionals is not an accurate reflection of the demographics within the greater community.”

Related: New Ways to Move the Needle on Diversity Hiring

“Decision-makers and recruiters can seek out candidates who empower others to value diversity,” said Cejka Search. “They can ask prospective hires to identify specific examples of how they have promoted diversity while in previous roles and to discuss ideas they have for enhancing diversity into the future.”

3. Knowledge and Continual Learning

Inclusive leaders understand appropriate and effective diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and principles, said the search firm report. They are willing to admit shortcomings and personal biases but are committed to continual learning. They realize cultural understandings are evolving and are devoted to staying on the edge of research and applying that insight to their organization’s values.

Tackling Unconscious Bias
In this brand new episode of ‘Talent Talks,’ Hunt Scanlon Media host Rob Adams is joined by Rebecca Kapphahn, vice president, and Angela Shultis, manager of business and market development, for Cejka Search. Ms. Kapphahn and Ms. Shultis discuss a recent report published by Cejka on unconscious bias, the impact that it has on executive teams, and how social media plays into the issue. Listen Now!

“Inclusive leaders can discuss DEI issues that exist at a high level but will also have ideas for how to address these problems in daily practice,” said the report. “These might include examples such as how COVID has widened healthcare disparities for non-English-speaking patients, or how the patient experience might be deficient for individuals with disabilities. It is important to remember that prospective candidates who show promise as inclusive leaders should not only be able to point out challenges but also to cite solutions.”

Cejka Search, based in St. Louis, has provided recruiting services exclusively to the healthcare industry for more than 35 years. Its client roster includes Georgetown University Hospital, Northwestern Memorial, Levine Cancer Institute, St. John Providence Health System, Tenet, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Centene Corp., Cape Fear Valley Health, and Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.

The firm has conducted searches for an array of roles, including chief medical information officer, chief compliance officer, chief of oncology, chief medical officer, chief of pediatrics, chief of neurology, chief nursing officer, CEO, CFO, COO, department chair, chief clinical officer, medical director, and chief strategy officer.

Related: To Improve Diversity, Recruiting Sector Must Set a New Course

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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