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Tap Into Your Inner Leader

Tap Into Your Inner Leader

Ascend the career ladder by identifying and cultivating your leadership qualities.

Strong leadership plays a crucial role in the success of any organization. Many of the greatest business minds possess certain qualities and look for these same traits in the leaders to whom they entrust their company. But solid leadership skills develop over time and may require some adjustments along the way, explained Astara Crews, MJ, CPC, CHC, CHPC, at ELEVATE 2021, an AAPC virtual conference. And “there’s always room for growth; there’s always room for improvement.” Those looking to advance professionally and climb the career ladder need to consider themselves a work in progress.

In her presentation, “Identify and Cultivate Your Leadership Qualities,” Crews helped healthcare business professionals looking to take their career to the next level understand what makes a good leader and outlined the steps they should take to discover, grow, and enrich their leadership skills. Here’s a recap of that session.

7 Traits of a Top-Notch Leader

Being able to embody the core traits of a great leader starts with looking deep within yourself. “Recognizing your own personal strengths is key to building a solid foundation and leadership qualities, so just start with yourself, wherever that may be,” said Crews. Step one, recognize fundamental leadership qualities. Great leaders …

1. Are compassionate.

Begin by having good intentions and showing compassion. Foster teamwork and involve your team members in efforts to get things done. Compassion helps create stronger interpersonal connections and improve collaboration, which, in turn, enhances loyalty. If you’re truly compassionate about something, that compassion can be contagious.

2. Demonstrate confidence.

Leading requires self-assurance. Good leaders know their strengths and feel confident in their ability to lead and deal with constant change. Team members/employees appreciate working with someone who is confident, upbeat, and has a positive vision. Crews went on to explain that “confidence, like compassion, is contagious. A good leader knows how to display confidence in a way that gets their team members to feel more confident in themselves.”

3. Possess strong communication skills.

Communication is extremely important because it enables you to share what you have, are trying to do, or what you expect from others. “Good communication skills help develop a better understanding among people and inspire your employees or your workforce to follow your principles and what you’re trying to achieve as a leader,” said Crews. And a key component of great communication is effective listening.

4. Can make tough decisions.

When you’re in a leadership role, there’s going to come a time when you have to make a tough decision. Great leaders consistently make excellent decisions, basing their choices solely on facts and data rather than emotions or personal relationships.

5. Serve a purpose greater than themselves.

Selflessness is one of the most recognizable traits of a good leader. Generally, leaders who are willing to make themselves accountable for their team’s performance will see their team/employees reciprocate that, with increased productivity and more pride in their work.

6. Foster a creative environment.

Great leaders bring out the creativity in others. You want a workforce that’s able to think outside the box and accomplish a goal in more than one way. “When your workforce knows that they’re contributing to the greater good, they’ll be prone to doing it more often,” said Crews.

7. Lead by example.

Employees respect a leader much more if they see that the person is willing to do the tasks that they normally would delegate. Setting a good example encourages engagement from your employees and fosters the leadership capabilities of your team members, as well.

Once you’ve identified the leadership traits you possess, the next step is to develop them.

Cultivate Your Leadership Qualities

Once you’ve done some introspection and identified the core leadership traits you possess, the next step is further developing those skills. While some people are natural leaders, most can acquire the necessary skill sets with a little bit of training. You just have to take the time to build your skills and practice applying them. “Put yourself in practical situations where you can use those skills to build a better business,” advised Crews. She went on to share several strategies you can use to cultivate your leadership qualities and keep advancing your career.

Practice Self-discipline

Self-discipline — the ability to focus on a task or goal to achieve a certain result — produces sustainable success over time. Crews explained that key traits, such as ambition, organization, persistence, responsibility, resilience, and strong work ethic, go hand in hand with self-discipline. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Ambition – To reach your goals, you need to be willing to put in hard work and effort. Having ambition is a big part of feeling like you’re working toward something, and it helps you stay focused and motivated. It is needed to sustain self-discipline. Crews shared a few tips on how to be ambitious: Surround yourself with ambitious people; continuously set SMART (specific measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) goals; take risks; embrace your imagination.
  • Organization – Organizational skills allow you to use your resources efficiently and effectively. Being organized means you maintain an orderly workspace, meet deadlines, and communicate well with your team. Maximizing your organization involves using skills, such as time management, self-motivation, delegation, analytical thinking, attention to detail, and strategic planning, to accomplish all your assigned tasks efficiently. According to Crews, improving your organizational skills starts with these three steps:
    • Make lists (i.e., keep records of tasks as you complete them).
    • Keep to a regular schedule.
    • Communicate with your team.
  • Resilience – Face and adapt to challenges to overcome them. Learn how to handle disappointments and find the silver lining. Great leaders look at setbacks as a setup for a comeback; they choose to turn failures into learning experiences. Don’t “allow yourself to sit in that negativity; that prevents you from progressing,” said Crews. “Learn from the situation and use that lesson as a tool to push yourself forward again.”
  • Work ethic – Strong work ethic can help you quickly achieve career goals. When you possess traits such as dependability, respectfulness, productivity, and collaboration, you are more likely to produce quality work and have solid relationships with your colleagues. Demonstrating that you are a reliable employee will lead to more responsibilities and more opportunities.

Developing self-discipline is a must, as “people will judge your capacity to lead by the amount of discipline you can display in your work,” Crews explained. Practicing discipline involves tasks such as waking up early and reviewing your schedule for the day, being to work on time, meeting deadlines, keeping appointments, and ending meetings on time.

Learn to Follow

As Aristotle once said, “He who cannot be a good follower, cannot be a good leader.” So, while you may be a leader, there are some attributes of being a follower — good judgment, competence, honesty, integrity, loyalty — that will help you be successful.

“A true leader has no problem, ultimately, yielding control to someone else, when it’s appropriate,” Crews said. “You should not feel threatened when someone disagrees with you, questions your thinking, or puts forth ideas of their own.” When you lead, keep an open mind and value and respect others on your team. This increases the likelihood your team members will step up and go to bat for you.

Apply Active Listening

An effective leader listens to suggestions, ideas, and feedback from other people and builds upon them. To be a good listener, you must recognize that communication is not only about words, but also picking up on non-verbal cues such as eye contact and body language. A good technique to employ when trying to actively listen is paraphrasing to confirm you understand the person correctly.

Keep in mind, “you want to not necessarily give the person an answer to their problems,” said Crews. “But rather, you want to help them discover a solution. Allow yourself to encourage them to take on the challenge and look to being part of their own solution.” In the words of Bernard Baruch, “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

Be Present

Research indicates that a more mindful presence is the optimal strategy for leaders to engage their team, create better connections, and improve performance. Crews’s tips for being more present in your daily life: Be here now; plan for being present; do less, be more; and embody presence.

Paying attention to what is actually here now is a learned skill, and like every other learned skill, it can be mastered through practice. Be cognizant of when your mind wanders. Recognize when this happens and bring your attention back to the task at hand. Being present allows you to be more focused, more intentional, and have purposeful moments with the people and things that matter. This, in turn, leads to improved relationships.

Know Your Abilities and Delegate

One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading. Crews shared some strategies to aid leaders at all levels who are undergoing that role change:

  1. Start with your reasons. Make sure the people you are leading or who report to you understand your reasons for doing things a certain way. When you do, they will be more apt to follow suit or take your lead and be committed to your purpose.
  2. Inspire commitment. People get excited when they feel they are part of a team and that their contribution is valued.
  3. Engage at the right level. It’s essential to stay involved to a degree but avoid micromanaging.
  4. Practice saying “yes,” “no,” and “yes, if.” Delegate wisely. Know your strengths as well as those of your team members and assign tasks based on whose abilities align best with what’s needed to get the job done. This will improve overall productivity.

Taking these actions will help to facilitate your transition from doer to leader.

Blend Work and Life

“There are a number of compelling reasons for leaders to pursue a work-life balance, but the benefits are not mutually exclusive,” Crews said. Promoting a good work-life balance helps combat employee burnout, and when you mitigate burnout, you can reduce the cost of turnover. Supporting work-life balance also helps ward off the physical and cognitive consequences of fatigue, which, in the long run, can help you boost performance and productivity.

“With all of this, you want to build a better brand,” said Crews. “Promoting a positive work-life balance can create a positive workplace culture and improve your organization’s brand perception.”

This Is a Marathon, Not a Race

Cultivating leadership is a long-term goal and you need to approach it strategically. It requires effort on your part to identify your leadership qualities and style and understand the needs of your team. “But be mindful that it’s also a collaborative process,” said Crews. “Your employees will only be excited to work with you and follow if it’s the direction that they want to head in. Lastly, as you cultivate your habit, you might find yourself elevating into higher levels of leadership.”

Learn More: Watch part of the ELEVATE 2021 session where Astara Crews discusses how to improve your resilience skills.

Stacy Chaplain

About Has 128 Posts

Stacy Chaplain, MD, CPC, is a development editor at AAPC. She has worked in medicine for more than 23 years, with an emphasis on education, writing, and editing since 2015. Chaplain received her Bachelor of Arts in biology from the University of Texas at Austin and her doctorate in medicine from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. She is a member of the Beaverton, Ore., local chapter.

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