Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds PROFESSOR ERWIN LOH: Things that facilitate and support staff to be able to innovate and succeed essentially, the key thing I think, is leadership. So, as a leader myself, but the point is success doesn’t come from having myself as the leader dictating things from the top. Success means that everybody in the team has to be leaders. Everyone has to have ownership of whatever initiative that we have. And in fact, we need to move away from thinking about initiatives or projects or programmes. We need to think more in terms of principles and culture. So leadership is an interesting topic in and of itself. In fact, that’s a topic that I actually do researching and I teach for Monash University.
Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds There are many, many ways and lenses to look at leadership. The lens that I use and that I teach is what some people call servant leadership. So Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s, although he’s been around for longer than that, came up with this concept of servant leadership where the leader is there to serve. And so the concept is that you turn the traditional model of leadership, which is a command and control model where the leader has the authority and uses power to control the followers, is flipped onto his head.
Skip to 1 minute and 24 seconds Where the leader now is a servant and, in fact, the leader becomes the leader because he wants to serve, and through serving, his followers give him the authority to be able to lead. And so the leader is at the bottom, supporting the followers who are then supporting the rest of the organisation, who then supports the community and the patients. And that’s the model that, in fact, is the model of leadership that is, from my point of view, the best model in health. Because what happens then is that the leader and then the team and the health service gets into the mindset that they’re there to serve the patient and to give them the best patient experience.
Skip to 2 minutes and 7 seconds We did a model as well. Instead of having the traditional model where the leader becomes the lord, that’s like a feudal lord, and with feudalism you get an inner circle of people. It’s called a charm circle, where they’re the favourites. The servant leader then creates networks, which is very important in health. There’s a concept that comes from the military called VUCA, v-u-c-a. V standing for volatile, u for uncertain, c for complex, and a for ambiguous. And that’s an environment actually that can be applied in health, where is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, chaotic. And in that environment, the hierarchical, the traditional model of leader doesn’t work, where you have an expert leader and novice followers.
Skip to 3 minutes and 2 seconds That model only works really in a linear, really logical, rational environment. But you move into this chaotic environment that is health, you really need a new model where, in fact, you have expert leaders and expert followers. So as the chief medical officer, I’ve got the head of surgery, the head of medicine, reporting to me. I’m not a surgeon nor am physician. In fact, I trained in psychiatry. But they’re expert leaders, right? So in a VUCA environment, I’m an expert in governance, I’m a lawyer, so I’m an expert in law. But when it comes to surgical issues, they are the experts. At different times, I take on the follower role, they take a leadership role.
Skip to 3 minutes and 43 seconds And in fact, you extend that model into a distributive leadership model, where, in fact, you want everyone to be leaders in their own right, in their own areas, so that they lead when they need to and you lead when you need to. So that’s the servant leadership model that I espouse.
Transformational leadership in healthcare
Here we explore how successful leaders can have a transformational impact on healthcare services, facilitating improvement and innovation by shaping organisational cultures that empower and engage staff.
Please watch the video interview with Professor Erwin Loh, Chief Medical Officer at Monash Health, Victoria, Australia - the largest discreet ‘health service’ in Australia, a conglomerate of 5 hospitals (tertiary and University), 2 subsidiary large centres, 39 community centres and 14,000 staff. Professor Loh is responsible for clinical practice, governance and leadership development.
During the interview Professor Loh explores how the most successful leaders in healthcare are those who are able to facilitate and engage a wider constituency of staff (what he terms ‘servant leadership’), rather than leaders who insist on directing from the front.