How to lead post pandemic: 3 priorities for developing leaders for a post-Covid healthcare environment

The past year has been a harrowing experience for healthcare teams, and the effects are evident. According to one survey, 76 percent of respondents reported feeling “exhaustion and burnout,” and 75 percent were overwhelmed.

As healthcare organizations emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, restoring employee confidence and morale will be critical to delivering outstanding, sustainable patient care.

These efforts begin at the top, but organizations will need to give attention to first and second-line leaders to be truly effective.

Here are three ways to develop leaders capable of effectively fostering a healthy work environment where it matters most – at the front lines of patient care.

Reconnect with Mission and Inspiring Vision

This moment is a unique opportunity for leaders and team members to reconnect with their organization’s mission and vision. Focusing on the mission allows leaders to reestablish their own professional and personal reasons for choosing their vocation and the importance of their organization in the communities they serve.

An organization’s vision asks the question, “what does the mission look like fully accomplished.”  After the disruptions of the last year, it’s more important than ever to engage leaders with the question, “how do we inspire each other to co-create conditions that achieve our future promise?” Reconnecting with the mission and reimagining vision enhances the team’s capacity to build on what they have learned, helping them be more open and ready to adapt to ongoing changes.

Balance Inquiry and Advocacy

Leaders and their team members have worked incredibly hard, managing the day-to-day chaos and challenges of the past year.

One way of imagining this is that healthcare workers have been busy dancing. To lead effectively and strategically, it’s important to “go to the balcony,” observing the team’s actions and evaluating yourself as a leader over the past year.

At the same time, to really understand where team members are, they must have confidence that their leader listens to them. To build this confidence, leaders must balance inquiry and advocacy.

Leaders on the balcony ask good, open-ended questions empowering team members to appreciate the past year’s experience and promote real dialogue. Helpful inquiry questions might include:

  • What has been lost over the last year?
  • What have we gained over the last year?
  • What have we learned over the last year?
  • What was the biggest surprise over the last year? Why?

In developing questions, it’s important that both leaders and their team members understand their experiences and the impact they have had on their well-being and professional capacity.

Some leaders will be challenged with moving to the balcony. They will prefer to continue taking charge and providing solutions. Some of these actions are required of the leader.  Asserting a position appropriately will be appreciated by team members during the transition period. The trick is to balance inquiry and advocacy to meet the situation and continue team development.

Develop Consistent, Collaborative Habits

Leaders play a critical role in propelling organizations forward by creating conditions that promote consistency and reduce drama and conflict in their work. Leaders understand that, to create a safe work environment, they must work with their team members to establish consistency in work processes and respectful relationships with and among team members.  Of critical importance is that there is a shared responsibility and commitment to each other and to the care of their patients.

Leaders need to be receptive and flexible in behavior, strategic in thinking, and collaborative in attitude. Leaders who can create these conditions are “facilitative leaders.” There are tools and processes that can be taught to build these capabilities in leaders. Essential capabilities to achieve consistency includes how meetings are run, how decisions are made, and how success is measured.


Take the time to “go slow to go fast.” Look back and understand what happened over the last year and look forward, envisioning what the mission will look like fully accomplished. Most importantly, engage the team to design and execute the pathway to realize the future vision.

Photo: Nuthawut Somsuk, Getty Images