What hospital leaders can learn from Rahm Emanuel's abrasive style

Healthcare leaders can learn both positive and negative lessons from embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's famously abrasive approach to politics, according to a Becker's Hospital Review column.

While Emanuel's confrontational style served him well as a congressman and President Barack Obama's chief of staff, his flagging polls as he seeks re-election indicate that personal likeability is an important part of effective leadership, writes Becker's contributor Tamara Rosin. Emanuel has defended his aggressive leadership style, arguing that it reflects his commitment to the city he leads; this, Rosin writes, reflects the dilemma healthcare leaders often face as they work to balance a personal touch with the tough decisions that are part of the job.

For both a big-city mayor and a hospital leader, it is not possible to satisfy everyone at once, said Scott Becker, publisher of Becker's and chairman of the healthcare department at McGuireWoods. However, he said, healthcare leaders still must work to maintain relations with those their hospital or systems rely on, from leadership to frontline workers to members of the community.

The tough, decisive qualities Emanuel demonstrates can make for an effective leader, Becker said, but the success of a hospital is not up to one leader alone. In order to be successful, leaders must command the respect of the rest of the staff enough for their objectives to align. Indeed, while charismatic or narcissistic leaders can achieve positive results for healthcare organizations, they often cause more problems than they solve, FierceHealthcare previously reported. To motivate from the top down, it's recommended that healthcare leaders take a more personal approach to motivation, using tactics like personal anecdotes to convey the organization's goals and values.

"The best leaders in organizations, in my experience, manage down really well, while the worst managers are tough on those below them and pander to those above them," Becker said. "I think Rahm is a great example of one willing not to pander to a portion of his constituents and should be highly respected for it."

To learn more:
- here's the column