Ethical Leadership

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A Leader should influence the team to ensure that right ethical decisions are made and should work towards ensuring such a culture is maintained across the organization writes Mr Jacob Jacob, Chief People Officer, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited


Ethical leadership, behaviour and decision making are the most important qualities of any leader, more so when it is in the healthcare sector. Leadership is not a singular character type but a combination of different personalities, attitude, skills and other interesting traits. An efficient and great leader has a set goal and a clearly defined strategy on how to ensure high quality and safe patient care.

In healthcare organisations, leadership not only becomes essential but is also crucial. Unlike other organisations, we deal with human life that is PRICELESS. We need to be conscious of the fact that every decision, even the smallest of them, will ultimately affect our patients who trust their lives with us. It is almost everyday that doctors and staff are required to make potentially life altering decisions sometimes even bordering on uncertainty. Constant encounters ranging from discussions with external stakeholders and partners, to gruelling counselling sessions with patients are a regular affair in the healthcare field. A good leader should influence the team to ensure that right ethical decisions are made and should work towards ensuring such a culture is maintained across the organization in every behaviour, act or decision taken.

An efficient and competent organisation becomes possible only when the leaders understand that every element in the “system” collectively contributes to its success. Leaders have to work together, identify and develop a strategy to address issues, challenges and equip employees with practical information that will enhance the organisation’s ethical performance. Ensuring that we function like a big family, with every person - irrespective of hierarchy - collaborating and working together is crucial to any organisation.  This efficient functioning of the system like a well-oiled machine can only be made possible by a good and efficient leader who understands the intricacies and importance of the contribution of every single player in the system.

The leader must have the capability to infuse the brand’s values and vision into the culture of the organisation and ensure that this core value is embodied in its people, processes and performance. Apollo Hospitals is cognizant that its greatest differentiator is its human resources capital and firmly believes in maintaining and encouraging an organizational climate conducive to developing satisfied and productive employees. In keeping with this, the Employee Engagement Survey (EES) is conducted on a regular basis to assess and ascertain employee feedback.

The mantra of ‘Tender Loving Care’ is the philosophy that is enriched in everything that we do and is the bedrock of the Apollo culture. With immense compassion and commitment, the doctors, nurses and every employee of the organization come together to transform our hospitals into a warm, helpful and friendlier environment for patients and their families.

Thanks to our concerted efforts towards engagement, we were awarded the “Gallup Great Workplace Award” in 2014 for mastering the art of engaging workforce to deliver sustainable growth.

In healthcare, it becomes increasingly important for the leader to understand that acknowledgement and engagement of employees will go a long way in improving the hospitals growth and success rate. Engaged employees are more likely to take the personal initiative to develop cost-saving innovations and also diligently attend to their patients’ emotional and physical needs. Investing in employee engagement activities apart from improving the employee morale also has resulted in lowering our operating costs, improved patient outcomes and attracted more patients by consistently providing high-quality care.

A good leader understands that consultants, nurses, paramedical staff, and others have different needs and expectations. Therefore, customized engagement strategies and policies for each category of employees will ensure employee satisfaction and thus improve performance. For example, our nurses often leave their homes, live away from their families, and maintain a strenuous work schedule. This mandates a lot of support, training, mentoring, and recognition mechanisms to keep them engaged and connected in all respects.

Patient outcomes improved exponentially when engaged employees delivered better care and also created engaged customers, leading to sustainable growth. Real operational success comes from our organizational strategy that aligns and engages all key internal stakeholders - leaders, physicians, managers/supervisors, and individual caregivers –complemented by investments in lean management, Six Sigma, and technology.

Developing an engaged workforce, unlike what many believe doesn't require a significant capital investment. Just removing barriers that interfere with an employee's work performance is an effective first step and this has resulted in transforming staff from cost drivers to revenue and profitability drivers.Our continuous focus on employee engagement has strengthened our hospital’s unique culture and ensured that our people and processes are ready to adjust and change quickly as we expand in hospital operations. An engaged employee aided by an ethical and transparent culture can create wonders for any organization.

Responding effectively and ethically to everyday problems that arise in the hospital, clinic, cubicle or council meetings can be a task for the employees. Leadership involvement at times like this will play a huge role in ensuring that the right decision is taken for the patient and the brand. It is only with the effective guidance of leadership providing clarity and brad guidelines on role based ethics guidelines can employees make the right decisions. As a leader we need to understand their needs and cater to it.

Apart from these, an attitude to promote innovation, experience, and an undying need to be the best are some of the characteristics observed in leaders. A willingness to take on challenges and ensure smooth administration even at a time of crisis is an important trait that every leader should possesses. A good leader does not exude power or authority but naturally inspires and influences others. It becomes particularly important in healthcare sector for the leader to be accountable, challenge conventional thinking and lead by example. In a business where we need to make quick and responsible decisions almost everyday, we need to ensure our teams are strong and are in sync with the company’s core mission and vision.