September 11, 2019

Leading during Social Crises

Leadership Development

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Many of America’s societal problems have reached crisis status. These issues have always impacted the healthcare industry. Yet today, they are not merely knocking on the industry’s door – they are blasting the door off its hinges!

The challenges we face as a result of the opioid crisis, inferior education, human trafficking, racial injustice, poverty, and gun violence are paramount. The devastation distresses our communities, our workforce, our patients and families, as well as those of us who lead healthcare organizations.

Each person is affected in some way. Yet, it is the expectation for the leader, to LEAD. Leading in the midst of societal crisis demands that we give even more of ourselves.

This Leadership Has a Name

Corporate Social Responsibility is a name more frequent in literature and in practice. It refers to the body of work that expects the organization to reach beyond its walls to make an impact that is not directly related to its primary business. It calls for organizational leadership to act in a manner that promotes the greater good for our communities, cities, states, and even our world.

The movement toward population health, along with an emphasis on social determinants of health, lays a solid foundation for reaching into the community and learning and acting upon needs. Even with these efforts, the push toward a more socially-conscious and responsible organization is peaking. Two things drive the demand: employees and potential employees who want/need to work in companies that fully live out their values and the escalation of many of society’s problems.

The best social impact leaders use a certain set of skills and exhibit leadership behaviors that elevate their ability to identify, prioritize, influence others, mobilize coalitions and achieve measurable results.  These superstars are most certainly found in the top job, but most likely are at an executive or broad scope position in management.

Behaviors Required

What does it mean to lead more deeply inside our organizations and outside in the broader community where there is far less control and even greater need and complexity?

It starts with you, the leader. What you do and how you do it matters…A LOT.

Reconfirm your core values and examine how your values relate to the organization’s vision.

Being capable of making a genuine connection with the people is critical. You must speak to their heart through yours. They don’t need to agree with you, but they do need to believe you. People need to have a strong sense of your core values so they can trust that your decisions and actions are connected to a conviction they understand.

Once you connect, you must then align the organization’s “living” values with the problem you are targeting and communicate in a manner that inspires others to act. Socializing the big idea is essential.  It is the precursor of building coalitions and casting a large net for others to “own’ the big idea.

You might be a known leader inside your organization but tackling a societal issue means getting to know key external stakeholders. You must become a respected voice outside your organization. And yes, you will take on this huge project while continuing to do your day job.

Why take this on? Everyone will have their own reasons. Here are some I have heard:

  • You are personally compelled.
  • It’s the right thing to do.
  • Employee engagement will increase when they feel their organization is using its position to make a difference in the communities that matter to them – and the subsequent increase in satisfaction, productivity and profit will follow.
  • You will become an active part in the ecosystem that contributes to maintaining health.
  • You could solve a hairy, bodacious problem for your community.
  • Or your own reason.
If you are willing, Get Ready!

Making a social impact takes leadership. If you understand the need for you and your organization, the next step is to fortify yourself. Invest in a heightened level of self-awareness around those leadership competencies you need to hone for success as you extend yourself to tackle societal problems and reshape the health of your communities. My colleagues at MEDI Leadership can offer you excellent thought partners to shape your development journey.


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About the author

Sabrina Shannon

Sabrina Shannon helps leaders meet the challenges of dynamic, complex environments. With a clear understanding of their strengths to lead and the organization’s unique position, her clients hone leadership competencies, build skills, and execute to deliver results.

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