Survey sees crisis looming for healthcare leadership

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




(2011), "Survey sees crisis looming for healthcare leadership", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 24 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Survey sees crisis looming for healthcare leadership

Article Type: News and views From: Leadership in Health Services, Volume 24, Issue 3

Keywords: Healthcare leadership, Management succession, Leadership development

Many North American healthcare organizations are expected to face a leadership succession crisis based on a survey of 117 senior industry executives and managers by American Management Association/Corporate Learning Solutions (AMA/CLS).

Less than 7 percent of healthcare organizations are seen as well prepared to deal with a sudden loss of key leaders, according to the survey. Only 8 percent possess a robust leadership pipeline and 44 percent have only adequate bench strength. And that is despite 74 percent of respondents to the survey believing a smooth management transition is now “increasingly critical.”

“Based on our findings it seems that healthcare lags behind other industries in terms of leadership development and management succession,” said Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for AMA/CLS, which offers advisory services and tailored learning programs to organizations. “In fact, nearly one-third of HMOs, hospital chains or healthcare providers are “not at all prepared” for the loss of key members of their senior management team.”

One survey question asked:

In your opinion, how prepared is your organization to deal with a sudden loss of key members of the senior management team?

  • 7 percent Well prepared.

  • 61 percent Somewhat prepared.

  • 30 percent Not at all prepared.

  • 2 percent Don’t know.

According to Edwards, the AMA survey provides revealing insights into how the industry’s leadership is perceived. “We get broad perspective on healthcare leadership as well as management succession preparedness because our input spans both middle to senior-level people at more than 100 of the industry’s largest organizations across the US and Canada. The survey gives us a glimpse of how industry insiders see things.”

Survey respondents had similarly unfavorable opinions of the healthcare leadership pipeline, Edwards said. “And insiders weren’t reticent about expressing their viewpoint. More than 40 percent believe the industry’s supply of future leaders is inadequate.”

One survey question asked:

How would you describe the leadership pipeline at your organization?

  • 8 percent Robust.

  • 44 percent Adequate.

  • 43 percent Inadequate.

  • 5 percent Don’t know.

Among other findings:

  • In terms of promoting from within, 28 percent are very committed to doing so and 52 percent are only somewhat committed.

  • A total of 34 percent of organizations often ignore the management succession plan and go outside to recruit key people.

  • While the senior management of nearly half (44 percent) of healthcare organizations is “sporadic” in its commitment to succession planning, one in five (21 percent) pays just “lip service.”

Senior healthcare management has clearly been busy cost cutting and surviving for the past 2 years, Edwards observed. “And it’s time now for investment in sustainability and competitive advantage, which must be based on talent. Having the best people in pivotal leadership roles, prepared to step in at any time, is essential for future success.”For more information visit

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