Recruitment and Staffing Blog

The Secret to Becoming an Effective Leader in Healthcare Amidst Change: Self-Esteem

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish”. – Sam Walton

Deep breath. Exhale. Deep breath again. Exhale. Whew. 2016 is almost over.

For those of you lucky enough to emerge from 2016 with your senses still intact, congratulations. It certainly was another year of breakneck changes in politics, international relations, the economy, and of course healthcare. Despite the turmoil, most of us are lucky enough to have weathered the storm that was 2016 (ICD-10 anyone?) and most likely understand that, as Socrates once said: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building on the new.”

If we could identify one of the most important takeaways in the healthcare industry this year, it would be that change is the new norm. We have witnessed an unprecedented series of radical changes in the healthcare industry over the past several years, most a result of major policy and legislative initiatives supporting digitalization, payment/reimbursement reform, and improving the quality of care.

Change, especially in the spirit of improving healthcare, is usually a good thing. However, change can also quickly usher in feelings of resentment, fear, and confusion. These feelings have a direct effect on employee motivation, productivity, and accountability. Change must be properly managed and monitored, requiring a steadfast approach from healthcare leaders that emulates confidence and courage. After all, how leaders accept and respond to change often sets the tone for an entire department or organization because employees often reflect the same attitude and approach as their managers.

As we flip the calendar on another banner year of change in healthcare, how do effective leaders in healthcare handle existing changes and how do they prepare themselves to accept the inevitable myriad of changes that are yet to come? One piece of that puzzle is to consistently build employee self-esteem.

Here’s why.

Self-esteem is defined as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities” and answers the question “How do I feel about who I am?” Low self-esteem is often translated into a negative evaluation of oneself and is often accompanied by a self-defeating or self-destructive behavior.  This can be an acute problem for healthcare leaders who supervise or manage a team because this type of behavior can be cancerous on performance and can quickly spread to others.

Valued healthcare leaders understand that building employee self-esteem should not be marginalized by the expectation that this is an individual responsibility and is only defined by life events outside of work. The truth is, building and sustaining self-esteem is just as important at work as it is outside the office. It’s often accomplished by helping employees face their fears (e.g. those brought on by change!) and learn from their mistakes, building confidence, and teaching them to appreciate and embrace their unique talents and abilities. When employees understand their value to an organization, it helps increase their trust in leaders and co-workers, take ownership for their responsibilities, and learn from mistakes. But perhaps most importantly, high self-esteem is influential to certain outcomes including job performance and the ability to accept change.

Practical tips to help build employee self-esteem include:

Practice your own self-care
Lead by example by making positive lifestyle choices and taking care of your own health.

Identify the triggers to low self-esteem
Treat change as an exercise to learn about oneself and by facing the fears it may bring to dispel negative beliefs that could sustain negative, often incorrect interpretations.

Take time to take notice
Pay attention to employee morale, attitudes, and demeanor. This helps to identify patterns that can be detrimental to team building, adapting to changes, and productivity.

Acknowledge accomplishments
Employees who are recognized for their extra efforts tend to have higher self-esteem and are willing to work even harder and smarter to reach their goals.

The old adage “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” goes a long way to help understand and appreciate different perspectives and viewpoints. When employees are respected and their voices are heard, it builds their self-esteem and indoctrinates respect.


Building on-the-job employee self-esteem is a smart way to cushion the confusion and uncertainties of change.  High self-esteem plays a key role in maintaining focus and helps individuals to understand why changes occur and what effect they may have on the bigger picture. The healthcare leaders of tomorrow realize that how employees feel about themselves is just as important as how they feel about their role and responsibilities. Take the time to observe and recognize potential cases of low self-esteem and be proactive in helping those that need to build it up.

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