Tom Brink is an experienced leader with an impressive resume. He has held many different roles in healthcare: He started his career as an addiction therapist and moved to management when he became President and CEO of Fairbanks Hospital, a 100+ bed and outpatient chemical dependency facility. After various leadership and teaching roles, he managed employee health for 25,000 IU Health employees prior to retiring.
Good clinicians don’t automatically make good leaders
Throughout his career, Tom has often encountered the notion of a ‘born leader’ — and it’s one that he does not agree with. That’s both good and bad news.
It’s bad news because leaders in the health space tend to be good clinicians who get promoted into management. Because they have been such good performers in their previous roles, their organizations often don’t see the need to give them leadership training — they expect them to be ‘born leaders’ and ignore the fact that leadership is a skill set that needs to be gained.
And it’s good news because it means that people who weren’t ‘born leaders’ can learn the skills that will ultimately turn them into great leaders and help them achieve the best outcomes in their roles and their organizations.
Tom knows first-hand what it’s like to come from a clinical background and be promoted into leadership.
“I moved up the leadership ladder because I was good at my job as a therapist. This meant I had good people skills as a therapist, but not necessarily as a leader. I also fell short in other necessary skills such as seeing where my own strategic vision fits in with the rest of the organization.”
Learning from mentors
Without formalized leadership training, Tom considers himself lucky to have found mentors to bring his leadership skills up to par. He passes on the lessons he learned from these mentors in our Certificate in Healthcare Leadership with Duke CE, an online leadership development course.
“My boss in my first leadership role was a seasoned gentleman who came out of the private industry. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot of stuff that I still consider very important: how to negotiate, and how to work with people from a leadership perspective. I was fortunate to have mentors throughout my career.”
The importance of leadership training
In Tom’s experience, the difference between poor and great leadership lies in one crucial difference: Whether or not the individuals have been given leadership training.
“I’ve worked in many organizations, some of them with good leaders and some of them with poor leaders. The good leaders have either taken the time to receive leadership training or they got lucky to be mentored, as I was. Poor leaders never got that training and the organization and the people under them suffer because of that.”
Getting the skills you need in a format that suits you
As a result, Tom recommends leaders to critically assess what skills they are lacking and take steps to educate themselves. He points out that a short course might be a particularly good starting point.
“You can read book after book, but a lot of the knowledge can also be imparted in very succinct lessons. That’s what we’re doing with this program with OpusVi and Duke CE. It takes 95% of the theory, compresses it into one program, and gives your practical examples as well.”
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