Why must healthcare executives invest in leadership training for middle managers and emerging leaders?

6 min read


Among many other things, Patty White could certainly be called a seasoned leader. The former President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center led a team of 5,000 medical professionals, support staff, and volunteers; and looks back on more than 30 years of experience in leadership. OpusVi is lucky enough to have Patty as a subject matter expert for our Certificate in Healthcare Leadership, we recently got her thoughts on leadership development. Among other things, Patty shared why healthcare executives should make leadership training a priority for their emerging leaders and middle managers.

Easing the transition into leadership

Remembering her own transition from peer to leader vividly, Patty has always been an advocate for ongoing leadership development in healthcare.

“In all these years of holding different positions, I learned things by going through the works. I wish that 20 years ago, I would have had formalized leadership training like the one I developed with OpusVi and Duke CE. Without training, I did some dumb things and it’s going to be the same for other emerging leaders. In healthcare, we often promote great clinicians into leadership roles, but we don’t give them tools, time, and skills to succeed in these new roles.”


What leadership skills are especially important for emerging leaders?

Tools and skills that new leaders should look to develop are strategic planning, change management, understanding how their own budget fits into the larger picture, and conflict management.

“This is doubly important if you went from being a peer to being a leader. You absolutely need to address performance issues. If you don’t, it will bring everyone down because A-performers will see that you’re not dealing with underperforming staff. But how can you deal with these issues in a respectful way? It takes a lot of practice and training.”


Middle managers play a crucial role in health systems — and executives should help them succeed in that role

Throughout the development of the Certificate in Healthcare Leadership, a lot of time was spent defining what level of leadership the program would focus on. Middle managers were identified as an important target audience, both because they are in the beginning stages of their leadership journey and because they play such a critical role in every health system.

“Senior leadership is usually great at making strategic plans, but they’re not the ones putting them into action. We need to give middle management the tools to act as a two-way communication vehicle between the strategizing and implementing parts of a health system. They need to be trained in being change agents. Regardless of COVID-19, healthcare has always been and is always changing. That’s why senior leaders need to ask themselves how they can give middle management and emerging leaders the tools to facilitate change and bring people along. Staff are often afraid of change, meaning middle managers play a crucial role in inspiring them to bring visions to life.”


How can executives and senior managers empower emerging leaders?

Seeing as leadership development is so important, how can managers inspire their employees to participate in trainings and further their skills? Patty says that this is usually a non-issue.

“You might be worried that they see it as another item on their to-do list, but that’s usually not the case. Great performers appreciate being tapped on the shoulder by an executive and being given a great opportunity to do better. Especially with millennials, I’ve noticed that they don’t only measure job satisfaction with next positions and promotions. They also want to get true opportunities to learn and get involved. Leaders should make that happen and invest in them.”
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Patty White

Patty White

Retired President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center

Patty White

Retired President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center

Patty White is the former President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, a 600-bed, not-for-profit hospital that is a nationally recognized center for quality tertiary care, medical education, and research. Patty led a team of 5,000 medical professionals, support staff, and volunteers who are dedicated to providing excellent patient care and improving the quality of life in the community. Patty was a leader in the Dignity Health Arizona Service Area for more than 30 years. She served as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Nursing Executive, and Vice President of Operations at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Patty is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Central Missouri State University and her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Arizona.