Too often when we think of a leader, we think of a person at the top of a pyramid or at the tip of an arrow. While leading ‘from the top’ or ‘from the front’ can be effective if your objective is to see a business thrive and grow profitably, it can be a counteractive way to run a healthcare organisation where quality care outcomes should be the primary measure of success rather than the bottom line.
Because of the way funding is allocated in a privatised economy, many aged care organisations have a budget-driven mindset where they wedge consumers into what’s available according to funding or services rather than looking more closely at what the person needs.
Essentially, they act more like gatekeepers to funding than care providers. And unsurprisingly, this trickle-down approach tends to leave a lot of people without adequate care or with unsuitable care and no recourse.
A servant leader mentality aims to reverse the focus from what a leader or business owner can do for the company’s bottom line to what the practitioners can do for the consumer, what the organisation can do for the practitioners and what the leader can do for the organisation in support.
Rather than standing at the top of a pyramid, the leader’s role is to strengthen its foundations.
Why aged care needs a servant mentality
Sectors such as health care and its subsets like aged care should not have profit as its primary motive or as a key performance indicator. This is not to say aged care organisations can’t be profitable. Rather, they should centre quality care and satisfaction as a necessary condition for success.
Evidence of a dysfunctional system is having a profitable aged care business that has low customer satisfaction and poor consumer outcomes. This is not a successful business. Once we divorce profit from success, the servant mentality is the only mindset that makes sense for health care. And trust me, profit can and will follow in a consumer-focused organisation.
What does a healthcare organisation driven by a servant mentality look like when it works? To start, the practitioners and therapists serve their patients and look to treat the needs of the individuals. They are empowered to do so by the support, resources and culture of excellence they receive from the management level. Practitioners are the arrows that hit or miss the target.
At the management level, there is servant leadership within the individual clinic. The clinic owners should have the goal to serve their clinics and the team within it.
Just recently we shifted our franchise recruitment criteria to allow non-practitioners to become clinic owners because we saw that the right mentality was more important than someone with training. When you are a practitioner-owner it can be difficult to focus on both the patient and the clinic. Management is the bow, giving the arrow the structure and support to meet the target.
Lastly, the leadership level, the C-suite if you will, needs to provide support for the clinic owners. While CEOs traditionally take a top-down approach, in health care this aspect of the leadership must be like the archer who fires the arrow in the right direction, towards providing quality patient care.
If all these levels are aligned, the arrow hits the target: patients receive appropriate quality care.
Health care and aged care are community services and therefore serving the community should be a necessary condition for any organisation in this sector to succeed, let alone exist.
A servant mentality not only drives excellence in care, in the long run it helps organisations run more efficiently and effectively to meet their needs.
Jonathan Moody is the founder and CEO of Physio Inq, a business he founded in 2006 providing a range of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and exercise physiology services both in-clinic and via mobile practitioners, the latter specialising in disability and aged care.Do you have an idea for a story?
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