Role Model Article Series: Medical and Health Services Managers

Role Models in Healthcare

What top-performing ‘Medical and Health Services Managers’ do differently than their peers

What is a Role Model?

We recently had the opportunity to chat with participants about their experience following a leadership assessment and development program. Always interesting and insightful, one of them happened to mention a “Role Model” - another participant who represented the very best within their group. It sparked some engaging discussion about job performance and what it takes to succeed to such a level that others aspire to be like you.

The fact is that Role Models are more than just high performers - they set an example. They foster a healthy and successful work environment, and consistently act in the best interests of the organization, team, customers, and other stakeholders. Most importantly, they provide a guide or template for our own behavior and actions.

However, while we know they’re successful, it’s not always clear how they do so or how they’ve reached the point of becoming Role Models. Yes, they’re “strong leaders”, “nice people”, and “have great ideas” but we need to be more specific if we’re to understand how to train and imitate these qualities.

This Article Series

Through this article series, we’re hoping to share what we've learned about the unique attributes and behaviors that explain why Role Models outperform their peers by such a wide margin. In particular, the series will focus on what it takes to be successful in specific positions and work environments. We’ll also be building on that learning by continuing to evaluate high-performers in various roles, and updating these articles accordingly.

Although we’ll post regular updates, please let us know if you would like us to send these new articles to you directly. And feel free to contact us if you are in this role and would like to take part in an assessment, or if you would like to evaluate your team. You’ll also be able to compare yourself or your team to other high-performers in the database (anonymously, of course).

So, let’s get to the next role and industry in our current study, Medical and Health Services Managers.

Medical and Health Services Managers

According to the O*NET database, Medical and Health Services Managers plan, direct, or coordinate medical and health services in hospitals, clinics, managed care organizations, public health agencies, or similar organizations. This includes: Clinical Director, Health Information Management Corporate Director, Health Information Management Director, Health Manager, Mental Health Program Manager, Nurse Manager, Nursing Director, Practice Administrator, Program Manager.

To date, we’ve assessed 63 people in this role, including behavioral questionnaires and a 360° feedback survey that collected comments from managers, peers, direct reports, and others. Twelve participants received exceptionally-high ratings from these 128 raters and would be considered Role Models for the group.

How Do Others See Them?

The first thing we did was review comments that raters provided to Role Model participants in the 360° feedback survey, to figure out what they do to garner such a high level of performance and respect. A summary of key attributes and typical comments is provided in Table 1.

For example, raters feel that ‘Role Model’ Medical and Health Services Managers are people-oriented. They empathize, collaborate, and are accessible and approachable. Strong verbal communication skills help as well, ensuring that others clearly understand and appreciate their points of view.

They are also hard working and improvement oriented. They get things done and find ways to improve the unit’s effectiveness and efficiency, considering the needs of staff, patients, families and other stakeholders.

Role Models remain calm and resilient in an environment that requires them to deal with serious issues that directly impact people’s lives, health and wellbeing. They handle the pressure well (or seem to) and take an objective, balanced approach to problems.

Table 1. Top five attributes of ‘Role Model’ Medical and Health Services Managers, according to their managers, peers, direct reports, and others.  

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How Do They See Themselves?

In addition to comments from the 360° feedback survey, we also had results from a behavioral styles questionnaire that participants completed themselves. It allowed us to see how their self-perceptions compared to those of 62,270 managers and professionals across a range of organizations and industries.

A summary of distinct attributes and implications is provided in Table 2, including a percentile to indicate just how different these ‘Role Model’ scores were from the average (e.g., their scores indicate that they worry more than 83% of other managers and professionals).

Most of these results line up with comments from the 360° feedback survey. For example, Role Models collaborate and cooperate, and focus on others’ needs and concerns. They are humble and team-oriented, and are much more interested in finding ‘win-win’ solutions than having others agree with them.

Other scores align well while offering deeper insights. For instance, they see themselves as improvement-oriented, but more practical than creative. In other words, they challenge conventional practices, but are not “blue sky” thinkers - they focus on what is realistic and achievable.

They are also much more comfortable relying on their experience when coming up with ideas and solutions, than analyzing numbers and statistics. Not that it negatively impacted their judgement - although not in the “Top Five” comments, quite a few people indicated that these Role Models are excellent problem-solvers and technical experts, who are intelligent, thoughtful, and examine situations from many different angles to come up with the best solutions.

Interestingly, despite their cool demeanour (360 raters indicated that Role Models are very calm and resilient), top-performers worry quite a bit about things going wrong. This makes sense, considering the consequences of mistakes in a high-pressure medical setting - they care, so they feel nervous, but they hide that stress well.

Table 2. Top five attributes of ‘Role Model’ Medical and Health Services Managers, according to a behavioral self-assessment.

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This section includes a few suggestions on how ‘Medical and Health Services Managers’ can emulate the very best people in the position, based on the results of assessments so far. Although these points no doubt apply to leaders and employees in other roles, keep in mind that they are particularly unique to the very best in this position.

How to Become a Role Model

  • Improve your verbal communication skills. Speak clearly, concisely, and directly. Tailor your message to your audience. Ensure that others understand and agree.

  • Express care and compassion for staff, patients, and their families. Follow-up. Encourage them to come to you with problems, even if not related to work. Listen to them and empathize.

  • Be visible and accessible, and foster an “open door” policy. Interact regularly with patients, families, staff and physicians. Attend events.

  • Support change and innovation. Come up with ideas to improve unit performance and efficiency, and patient care. Encourage others to do so as well. At the same time, focus on ideas that are practical and realistic. Practice quality and process improvement.

  • Seek out opportunities to collaborate with patients, families, staff, physicians, and other teams. Check in with them regularly. Treat them like partners and try to find solutions that meet everyone’s needs.

  • Be persistent and work hard to get things done. Make sure you understand goals, and complete tasks to expectations. Find ways to motivate yourself and persist through obstacles.  

  • Stay calm and keep your emotions in check, but take problems seriously (Role Models try to stay calm, but they also worry). Consider issues from an objective, balanced standpoint.

Developmental Resources

This list is by no means exhaustive. Please feel free to forward other resources you would recommend, including books, courses, and related development services that you or your organization might offer (e.g., if you are a trainer or coach who specializes in these areas). We would be happy to include them in a future update.


  • Haskayne School of Business Executive Education:

    • Emotionally Intelligent Leader - learn and practice EI concepts, frameworks and tools to develop your emotional leadership practices.

    • Driving Business Innovation - create and capture new business value and achieve long-term business success through innovation.

    • Strengthening Mental Toughness and Resilience - a learning journey designed to focus on purposefulness, action, and reflection.


  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler.

  • Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds by Carmine Gallo.

  • Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements by Mark Graban and Joseph E. Swartz.

  • Creating a Lean Culture by David Mann.

  • Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen.

  • Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos by Heidi K. Gardner.

  • Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson Ph.D and Forrest Hanson.

  • The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity by Melanie Greenberg PhD.

How You Can Help

We hope this article was useful and that you’re looking forward to future updates - including results from upcoming assessment projects that explore what Role Models are doing in other positions, organizations, and industries.

If interested, here are a few ways you can help with these projects and articles:

  • Let us know if you would like to take part in an assessment (or evaluate your team), and compare your results to Role Models in the position.

  • We welcome discussion about this topic. Do you agree with these findings? Is there anything we should consider for future updates, that others might find helpful?

  • Do you know of any research on the qualities that predict success in specific jobs? We’d love to hear about these types of studies.

  • If you found this post interesting, please feel free to share it with colleagues!

Who We Are

Based in Calgary Alberta, The Hayward Group has been providing talent management consulting services since 2006, across Canada and the United States. Our primary focus is on helping organizations make more effective talent management decisions, through the objective evaluation of employee capabilities and a range of supporting recruitment and development services. We are proud to work with a number of leading associates and partner organizations to provide you with a wider range of expert insights.


Office:   403-698-5609