How can senior living organizations boost their bottom line while retaining their employees in this challenging economic climate? By hiring and developing senior care executive leaders and managers who put themselves last and their people first. In other words, hire and develop servant leaders.
Servant leadership is not a new leadership style especially to the senior living industry. At its core, this leadership style is about making it a priority for senior living executives and leaders to serve rather than to lead.
The pandemic has brought servant leadership to the forefront again and it plays a vital role in the post pandemic world. More than ever, senior care servant leaders are devoted to making the health, welfare and growth of their people a priority.
The theory of servant leadership was started by Robert K. Greenleaf, who popularized the term in a 1970s essay titled “The Servant as Leader.” Since that time, there have been several interpretations of his leadership model. Some say there are 10 traits and characteristics of servant leaders and others say nine or seven.
As home care and senior living executive recruiters, offering both perm and interim placements, we talk to numerous servant leaders on a regular basis and feel that these seven characteristics capture the senior living servant leader in the post pandemic era:
-Good character: A servant leader is someone who maintains their integrity and ethics. They make decisions based on hard truths and principles. They are humble and their actions serve to a higher purpose in a long-term care organization.
-Puts people first. A servant leader demonstrates care and concern for others. While they can’t heal the wounds left by COVID-19, they understand that people are hurting and therefore, try to create a positive employee experience and working environment. They lend a hand to help employees meet their goals and desired career paths within their senior care organization.
-Effective communicator: Verbal communication and active listening skills are integral to servant leadership. At this point in time, servant leaders are listening attentively to what their senior living professionals are saying about how the pandemic affected them. A servant leader doesn’t necessarily have all the answers, but just listening to their people shows they care.
-Compassionate: To be compassionate is to feel deeply for another person as they experience an unfortunate situation. Servant leaders show compassion for their people by asking about their ups and downs during and after Covid.
-Empowers others. Servant leaders care about leveraging their senior living talent and empowering their teams. They create a safe environment that encourages people to take moderate risks and make confident decisions (with guidance). Servant leaders know that if they solely focus on financial gains over their teams, especially post-COVID-19, people will exit. Resignations are at a 20-year high.
-Clear vision and foresight: As a result of COVID-19, senior care servant leaders know they need to look into the future and expect the unexpected. They must anticipate and adapt to anything that might impact the organization. They also need a vision for where their senior care organization is headed, recruit staff support, move quickly in that direction, and take decisive action when needed.
-Builds trust: Servant leaders work to earn trust and build good relationships with their people. As we emerge from this pandemic, senior care workers need their leaders to be sources of stability. People are much more likely to be effective in their roles when they feel their manager has their backs.
In the post-pandemic era. expect to see continuous changes and adjustments, greater employee autonomy, and creative innovations in senior living. It’s a time that demands true servant leaders … those who will put their people first as well as bring out the best in them.
Julie Rupenski is the founder, president and CEO of MedBest, an award-winning national executive search firm exclusive to the senior living and care industries. Her specialties include filling C-suite, vice president, regional and property-level positions. Contact her at [email protected] or at 727-526-1294.