Cultivating Trust as a Healthcare Leader—Part I

Cultivating Trust as a Healthcare Leader—Part I Posted By:
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Many clinician leaders who I have met over the years have emerged from 1 of 3 groups:

  1. Planned: Leadership was their planned/expected career pathway
  2. Necessity: They stepped up to lead in a time of need
  3. Directed/unplanned: They were "voluntold" to take on leadership duties

Regardless of their start in leadership, cultivating and nurturing healthcare leaders is essential for addressing the issues of today and for envisioning, designing, and operationalizing healthcare delivery in the future.

Healthcare Executive recently published an article "Traits for Tomorrow's Leaders," by J. Manuel Ocasio, which outlines important attributes of leaders. Many articles have been published on this topic, often with overlapping descriptions of leadership competencies or thematic variations. The greatest intrigue comes with the reflective angle taken in these descriptions.

One trait Ocasio details is trust/trustworthiness. But how does one build trust as a leader? First, we need to recognize and acknowledge the pandemic stressed an already fractured healthcare system—and trust in healthcare leaders took a hit. I am cautiously optimistic this collateral damage is not beyond repair because trust is not a static concept, but rather a dynamic and fluid one. Leaders at all levels in healthcare need to take intentional action to build (or rebuild, in some cases) trust; as part of their leadership development, new leaders should be mentored to do the same.

So, again, how can healthcare leaders build, rebuild, and reinforce feelings of trust? Ocasio looks at this trait from the perspective of the relationship between managers and subordinate employees, highlighting work published by de Nalda et al which showed that ability, benevolence, and integrity are key predictors of a leader in gaining the trust of their subordinates.

Ability is defined here as having the requisite knowledge and skills to perform the job; benevolence is defined as performing selfless acts of caring for those they lead; and integrity is defined as adhering to ethical and moral principles, keeping one's word, and upholding an organization's values. When you stop to think about these predictors, do they not apply to all of us in some way? As healthcare providers, regardless of title, we are all leaders in some way—needing to gain and foster the trust of our peers, our patients, and their families through our ability, benevolence, and integrity. Keeping these qualities top of mind may do us all well in rebuilding trust in the healthcare system in the wake of the pandemic.

Of course, this is just one facet of many in the components of trust and trustworthiness. In Part II of this post, I will highlight researcher Brené Brown's approach to the core components of trust.

References
  • de Nalda AL, et al. The influence of ability, benevolence, and integrity in trust between managers and subordinates: The role of ethical reasoning. Business Ethics. 2016;25:556.
  • Ocasio JM. Traits for tomorrow's leaders. Healthcare Executive. 2022;37:50.

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Filed under: Practice Management/Career , NPs & PAs

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