You asked us. We answer.
In our last column on “5 Essential CEO Skills for the Future,” we talked about the Why and What of successful leadership in services for seniors in the years to come. The five core competencies were personal depth, operational savvy, industry awareness, government intelligence, and megatrend acumen. In response to the column, many people have asked us to write more about the How? ‘Or’ What.
So we reviewed the latest research on leadership development and reflected on our own effective habits. The following is a guide to cultivating the abilities that are increasingly needed in our industry. It takes the form of three things namely: Know yourself, know others and know your world.
Self-knowledge is at the heart of the first essential skill: personal depth. We are talking here about a lucid understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. And not just in “hard” skills such as finance, operations and technology.
On the contrary, it is more important to assess and improve your “soft” skills. In fact, research shows that powering up tends to diminish our ability to empathize with others and recognize the limits of our wisdom. It’s also essential to understand the emotional “triggers” that set you off and keep you from making your best decisions.
Such self-reflection builds emotional intelligence and the willingness to be vulnerable. These, in turn, help you foster “psychological safetythat fuels high-performing teams and the kind of caring communities residents and their family members want to join.
In the future of aging services, CEOs must identify with and inspire a wide range of people, from immigrant caregivers to office accountants to policy makers. These relationships will require a leader with a high level of self-awareness.
Some concrete steps:
- Take a personality test such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, CliftonStrengths Assessment, or Enneagram.
- Ask trusted colleagues and friends for candid thoughts about your strengths and weaknesses. Do this every year.
- Hire people who are “smarter than you” and “who think differently”. Look for people whose strengths complement yours and who aren’t afraid to voice different opinions.
know the others
Relationships with other people are crucial for the next three essential skills for CEOs: operational know-how, industry knowledge and government intelligence. Building a large, diverse network of friends and colleagues in other fields as well as in services for the elderly is a powerful and underused tool for building expertise quickly. Friendships and contacts give you perspectives that are “just a phone call away” when you face difficult challenges. And although ambitious leaders often imagine themselves to be independent achievers, it is increasingly clear that we need networks of people both for our personal well-being and professional success.
Great Place to Work research found that the most inclusive and effective solutions “for all” leaders cultivate bonds of trust within and beyond their teams. Another study found that the best and most effective leaders spend up to 60% of their time managing relationships external to their teams. Senior living, with its overlapping areas of hospitality, healthcare and social engagement, has more external relationships than most industries. It requires highly connected leaders.
Some concrete steps:
- Establish an advisory board of your organization’s staff members, with less than 10% of the head office. Include people from all levels of the organization and staff members who reflect diverse backgrounds.
- Identify a few people in the industry that you admire and ask them to serve as mentors (for female leaders: research also shows you need sponsors).
- Find out about movers and shakers at the state and federal level, and look for time on their schedules.
know your world
Curiosity about disruption and developments beyond services for seniors is fundamental to the fifth critical skill for CEOs, megatrend insight. Several readers wanted more information on this last key skill. This is a good sign, as broad knowledge is increasingly essential to successful leadership. The conventional wisdom of specializing in a particular niche turns out to be ill-advisedespecially for those seeking to serve at the top of an organization in one area at the intersection of several others.
It is impossible to know exactly what social, technological, economic or cultural trends will shape the lives of seniors in the years to come. But with dramatic changes in areas such as artificial intelligence, home health care and longevitythe only safe prediction is that aging services will look very different in 10 years.
Some concrete steps:
- Start your day as a “generalist”, first consuming information from sources outside of aging services.
- Follow or subscribe to leading organizations and newsletters in technology, healthcare and life enrichment, such as the MIT Media Labthe Consumer Technology Association and the futuristic medical bulletin.
- Make sure your media sources reflect a range of political viewpoints, from libertarians and conservatives to liberals and leftists.
We tried to complete the Why and What from our original article “5 Essential CEO Skills for the Future” with the How? ‘Or’ What here. We would like your comments and ideas. How are you preparing to lead in the years to come?
We, the three authors, have a lot to learn and we are moving together towards the future of aging services.
Jacquelyn Kung, DrPH, MBA, is the Managing Director of Activated Insights, a technology and data company in the area of life and senior care.
Robert G. Kramer is the founder of Nexus Insights, a think tank advancing the well-being of older adults, and former CEO of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.
Ed Frauenheim is the co-author of several books on organizational culture, including “A Great Place to Work for All.”
The opinions expressed in each McKnight Senior Residence guest column are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of McKnight Senior Residence.
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