First, allow me to clear the air a bit; neither is “better” than the other and we need both to meet the continuing revenue cycle management (RCM) challenges ahead for hospitals and healthcare organizations. Also, volumes have been written on this topic so this is not an effort to present a treatise on leadership or management. It is just a summary of recent thoughts on the subject.
Recently, we heard an interesting definition of “leader;”
“A leader is one who has willing followers”
This seemed so oversimplified that I almost dismissed it, but then I realized that many who consider themselves leaders look behind them to find no willing followers. There may be employees, customers, colleagues or others who do what is asked of them but that alone constitutes a “management relationship,” not necessarily leadership. Obviously, you cannot be a leader without willing followers.
People are willing followers because they believe in a leader who has vision and value prioritization. Most people when asked to list their 10 most important values will create about the same list. It is how the list is prioritized and applied that often separates leaders from managers.
Vision and value prioritization occurs every day in the hospital environment. A CFO is required to make a decision that weighs patient care against budget constraints. The VP of Revenue Cycle considers how aggressive to be with collection practices that can influence both the bottom line as well as service perception in the community. There are many other examples. Leaders make these decisions effortlessly in a way that attracts followers.
An obvious question arises, “How do leaders do that and can others learn to do it?” I submit that all leadership skills except one can be learned and that is an innate TALENT. It is talent, combined with a litany of learned competencies that allows leaders to be leaders. If you do not have talent, people will not follow. You cannot learn to be talented.
Here is what I think is important in this context. Leaders give direction, but it is managers who know how to get there. Regardless of your place in the organization, never underestimate the importance of both. It is a symbiotic relationship wherein neither role brings value without the other.
Something that I have come to realize and appreciate from our Interim RCM Management experiences;
“The Manager/Leader is the rarest of gems”
The Manager/Leader, as you probably have guessed, combines the qualities of both a good Manager and a good Leader. Also, as you may have concluded, it is more likely for a Leader to become a Manager/Leader than for a Manager to do the same, which makes him or her a rare find.
Here are some examples of hybrid qualities of a Manager/Leader:
- Understands corporate goals, policy and directives like a Manager, but also knows that he has to motivate and value people to be successful
- Reports the numbers like a Manager and drives innovation and improvement like a Leader
- Challenges without offending like a Manager and encourages expression of opinions in open debate like a Leader
- Writes detailed, accurate and honest performance reviews like a Manager and will support employees in achieving their career goals like a Leader
- Has high expectations of all employees like a Manager and is a model for them, like a Leader
So, which are you, a Revenue Cycle Manager or Revenue Cycle Leader or both?
For another perspective, see Nearterm Unique Benefits of an Interim RCM Leader.