Communication, compassion found key to effective leadership

A Monash University study has identified communication and compassion as key attributes for effective leadership in aged care.

Good communication skills and compassion are the top attributes required to successfully lead an aged care organisation, a Monash University study has found.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Nursing Management in April, analysed the perceptions of leadership by leaders in residential aged care facilities to identify the requirements for success.

It involved in-depth interviews with 18 senior leaders in Victorian residential aged care in roles such as manager, CEO, director, aged care leadership consultant, nurse manager and general practitioner.

Lead researcher Dr Jacqueline O’Toole said compassion and communication were identified as the key skills that leaders in aged care require.

“Communication is really significant because as a leader you have to communicate with so many different stakeholders on different levels and be able to effectively communicate with families of residents… and with residents,” Dr O’Toole told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“[For] compassion, leadership is measured in terms of aged care excellence and quality in medical concepts; how efficient, how effective and how well they care for the medical health of their residents,” said Dr O’Toole, a lecturer of international management at Monash University.

Dr Jacqueline O’Toole

However, the study identified that communication and compassion were lacking among leaders in the sector.

Aged care leaders set the example of how well staff communicate with resident, Dr O’Toole said.

“The way they communicate with everyone is going to be important as an as a role model to their staff,” she said.

Leaders need to demonstrate compassion in how they manage their staff and staff numbers, Dr O’Toole said.

“If they don’t have a compassionate outlook, then they’re going to run it more like a business, which it is, but more mechanically to make money than to actually provide care for these people in a spiritual, emotional way and as well as physical needs,” she said.

The study also identified ability to create an organisational vision, manage budgets, develop a strategy, work with families and manage change as other skills and attributes of a good leader.

There needs to be a better approach to recruiting and training leaders in aged care, Dr O’Toole said.

“A lot of leaders in aged care from my research just kind of end up there, they might be a nurse manager and some of them brought in because they’ve got good business skills. But there doesn’t seem to be any real kind of research or effort put into ensuring that people understand, or people have the right attributes to be a leader in this industry,” she said.

“The way they describe the leadership role is probably key to recruiting someone who is compassionate. Yes, they need business skills, but there needs to be more in terms of promoting that person centred care, which is something that needs to be happening when they are in charge of an organisation.”

Dr O’Toole suggested aged care organisations could speak to residents and their families to gather their opinions and use person centred care as a key performance indicator.

Access Residential aged care leadership in Australia-Time for a compassionate approach: A qualitative analysis of key leader skills and attributes.

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Tags: aged care leadership, communication skills, compassion, dr jacqueline o'toole, Journal of Nursing Management, monash university,

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