July 15, 2022

How To Cultivate Influence in Your Healthcare Organization

In a recent Leader Dialogue Radio podcast, ABOUT Healthcare in partnership with the Baldrige Foundation, led an in-depth discussion about the importance of innovative healthcare leadership, particularly during these times of volatility and clinician burnout. In the episode, host Dr. Roger Spoelman interviewed speaker and author Clay Scroggins about his new book titled, How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge. The discussion revealed that leadership and authority are not one and the same, and that healthcare personnel should seek out ways to cultivate their own influence within the organization even if they are not currently in a leadership position.


“Wielding authority may generate short-term action, but it is not a way to establish a following,” says Scroggins. “True leadership is only achieved when one is successful at cultivating influence over others.”


Leadership starts by leading yourself


Throughout the podcast, Scroggins outlined several steps aspiring healthcare leaders can take to cultivate influence. The first is to start by leading the person you have the most control over – yourself. Effective self-leadership requires keen self-awareness. Scroggins advises healthcare professionals to solicit honest feedback on their strengths and weaknesses from other team members and to actively work on identified areas for improvement.


Scroggins also emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and adding value to work interactions.


“Prepare and put thought into every meeting before it occurs,” he says. “Actively question things. Contribute to the discussion and reject passiveness.”


Scroggins admits that some organizations do not encourage robust dialogue and debate, but he also warns not to use such a culture as an excuse. He believes a defeatist attitude is a symptom of the problem and a missed opportunity to lead.
“No matter how toxic your organization or manager may be, you have the power to cultivate influence,” he says. “It is difficult to do because we have been hard-wired to follow the pack.” This is where breakthrough leadership occurs.


Be an advocate for inclusion and positivity


According to Scroggins, the toughest time to get people to follow you is when you ask them to execute on a decision or action plan that they have not had the opportunity to weigh in on. He stresses the importance of giving those impacted by a decision the opportunity to provide their concerns and suggestions. This practice encourages alignment, regardless of whether everyone agrees on the final decision or not. In fact, Scroggins argues that this act of inclusion is more important than the decision itself.


“The best organizations have a unity of people leaning into the same idea,” he says. “Ideas and processes will work if everybody is aligned and committed to accomplish the objective.


Finally, Scroggins encourages aspiring leaders to be positive. He notes that optimism can be contagious, impacting not only the individual, but the entire team dynamic.


The podcast closes by emphasizing that if aspiring healthcare leaders do not develop these kind of leadership skills prior to receiving authority, they will likely not be successful leaders once authority is given to them. Learning how to lead-up is a key hallmark of effective leaders.