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Wellness-Centered Leadership - Why it Matters Image
Jun 29, 2021

Wellness-Centered Leadership - Why it Matters

Heather M. Hylton MS, PA-C Photo

Heather M. Hylton MS, PA-C MS, PA-C

A paper recently published by Shanafelt et al titled: 'Wellness-Centered Leadership: Equipping Health Care Leaders to Cultivate Physician Well-Being and Professional Fulfillment' is fitting for the 'must read' list. Although the paper focuses on physicians, the principles here apply to every individual in every healthcare setting I can imagine. Wellness-centered leadership is agnostic to one's profession or position—whether you are part of the 'C Suite,' a manager of frontline staff, a leader of a small work group, a manager of volunteers in a professional membership organization, or a leader without a formal title.

Why? Because people, their engagement, and their morale matter. As the adage goes, 'An organization's greatest asset is its people.' This principle is not only simple, it is also intuitively sensible. How could we expect a client, customer, or patient to receive the best service, best experience, or best care if those providing it feel disconnected, perceive a misalignment of values, or are struggling to find joy and fulfillment in their work?

The model proposed by Shanafelt et al is a scalable, common sense approach with 3 major elements: care about people always, cultivate relationships, and inspire change. The model is presented in a pyramidal format.

The foundation of the model is care about people always. How often do 4 little words have so much meaning? This is about attentiveness, presence, empathy, and authentic and intentional recognition of each individuals' talents and contributions. It is about understanding what is important to people (some great resources for this can be found in Balik et al's 'IHI Framework for Improving Joy in Work'). It is about encouraging open dialogue regarding work-life integration, reflecting it through your own behaviors, and setting positive examples for the team to emulate for their own well-being.

The middle section of the model is cultivate relationships. This is about fostering a culture of community, mutual support, and collaboration. The community aspect is more important than ever in light of the sense of isolation many have experienced secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is about supporting the trajectory of talent development and engagement in meaningful work. It is about empowering people to do their best work.

Topping off the pyramid, we have inspire change. This is about engaging people in the solutioning around the problems they face in their work each day. It is about leveraging a growth mindset. And it is about embracing a continuous improvement philosophy of which everyone is a key stakeholder and contributor.

The dynamic nature of the healthcare environment is complex. The Wellness-Centered Leadership Model places a priority on the well-being of those who carry out the mission of an organization each and every day. It is an enlightened model of leadership with high potential to categorically improve outcomes that matter to patients, the healthcare workforce, and organizations alike.


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