When you think of a leader, what do you see? Charisma, confidence, extraversion?
Trinity healthcare administration professor Amer Kaissi has a different answer. His book, Intangibles: The Unexpected Traits of High-Performing Healthcare Leaders, argues that successful leaders have four very unusual traits: humility, compassion, kindness, and generosity.
And Kaissi is making a convincing case in his field: Intangibles was just named 2019 book of the year by the American College of Healthcare Executives.
“This is a great honor, but what means more to me is how the message is resonating with readers,” Kaissi says. “When you write a book, the last thing you’re thinking about is winning an award. Really, you’re thinking about your message.”
Leadership writing, Kaissi explains, is an oversaturated field, full of opinionated content from all career fields imaginable. And that’s why Kaissi didn’t write this book based on his own opinions. Intangibles actually draws on direct interviews with leaders in the field of healthcare, academic research in the fields of psychology, management and sociology, among others, and industry surveys of healthcare professionals.
Now, discover the four traits from Kaissi’s book, and how you can start practicing them:
For leaders, this is the “oddest” trait, Kaissi says, because most people think leaders need to constantly self-promote. But the most successful leaders are not afraid to admit their own limitations. “You can know your stuff,” Kaissi says, “but you also recognize what you don’t know.” And when encountering an area in which they have no expertise, humble leaders don’t make statements: they ask questions.
ACTION: Call on your team when you encounter a roadblock you don’t know how to solve.
Compassion is the ability to empathize. “Leaders have to be able to look at their employees as more than resources, but as entire people,” Kaissi says. When leaders know about the stresses and strains of their team’s personal lives, they can discover when it’s best to push their employees, as well as when to support them.
ACTION: Get out from behind your desk and talk to your team about their lives outside of the office.
Kindness is compassion in action. “Nice doesn’t make you a doormat,” Kaissi says. “Kind leaders balance being fair and being firm.” This balance typically means being able to give affirmation hand-in-hand with giving tough feedback.
ACTION: Send thank-you cards to your team for a job well done, but don’t hesitate to have a tough conversation with an employee who needs a push to be successful.
Generous leaders give their time and energy to help the development of the next generation of standouts. “These are mentors,” Kaissi says. “They realize they’re not going to be in their position with the company forever, so they open doors for new talent to walk through.”
ACTION: Provide clear and consistent criteria for your standouts to advance and earn promotions.
Watch Kaissi's webinar to learn more about high-performance leadership!