The Role of Leadership in the Healing Process

By Norman J. York


We are blessed by the increasing results of research that continually reveals the healing power of the immune system to cure or retard many forms of disease. Immunotherapy has become an increasingly familiar term and one that brings hope for cures never before considered possible. Medicine in its many forms will continue to represent a greater force for the alleviation of pain  and suffering in the on-going quest for human longevity.

Another power, that enhances the science of curing is the art of leadership that focuses on the behavioral  characteristics of physicians, nurses and all other support personnel in the healing process itself.  When patients experience the benefit of caring on the parts of their medical  caregivers their healing is enhanced, even when complete cure is not possible.

Where do leaders come from?

Contrary to popular belief, leaders become leaders because they want to lead, i.e., to bring out the best in others and to glory in their success.  While it may be true that some people have a higher  propensity for leadership, from family experience, physique, etc., anyone can become a leader if she or he truly desires to lead others; and not what someone else wants the person to do.

While it is true that many leaders are more extroverted and\or larger in stature, anyone, introverted or small can lead; however, there is likely to be a difference in style. The former is likely to be more outgoing and expressive, while the latter is likely to succeed by quietly building, solid, caring  and trusting relationships.

Irrespective of personality type, leaders are people who care about people, some too much, others too little.  In any event, leadership requires the application of two domains: one intellectual, the other emotional.  Ideally, there is a reasonable balance between the two.  However, circumstances can create imbalance between the domains causing the leader's judgment to become flawed.  Therefore, leaders must be ever mindful of their challenge for objectivity.

How does one become a leader?

Although one's desire is critical, sadly, the world has misinterpreted the methodology.  Most organizations, medical and otherwise, have sought to train leaders, which is a fallacy in itself. Leaders must be developed, not trained.

According to Mike Myatt, writing in The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails,  "My problem with training is it presumes the need for indoctrination on systems, processes and techniques. Moreover, training assumes that said systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. When a trainer refers to something as “best practices” you can with great certitude rest assured that’s not the case. Training focuses on best practices, while development focuses on next practices. Training is often a rote, one directional, one dimensional, one size fits all, authoritarian process that imposes static, outdated information on people. The majority of training takes place within a monologue (lecture/presentation) rather than a dialog. Perhaps worst of all, training usually occurs within a vacuum driven by past experience, not by future needs."

Developing leaders is a work in progress because leaders are always learning new and better ways to motivate and empower their teams and organizations. While leadership cannot be taught, leadership principles can and should be taught both formally and informally.  Having a mentor or coach is a highly desirable option; however, principles can be taught in group discussion sessions, ideally facilitated by an experienced leader.

Core Values

Leadership principles become core values of the organization and characterize the responsibility of all to live the values that have been defined.  While such values can come from a wide range of options, prime examples are:

 Accountability--committed to completing all work within time and budget expectations and mutually support each other's individual efforts.

Courage--takes responsibility and admits mistakes in order to avoid problems.

 Empathy--expresses concern and understanding of the difficulties experienced by patients, families and each other.

Integrity--behaves with trust and honesty in every situation.

Passion--emotionally committed to creating positive outcomes.

Respect--people are valued for their individual characteristics and are treated with consideration.

Situational Leadership

Leadership can take many forms, e.g., transformational, transactional, etc.; however, situational leadership defines the behavior of a person who treats all others with respect and consideration and who  encourages corresponding behavior from others.

According to Erie Chapman, writing in Radical Loving Care: Building the Healing Hospital in America, "As every CEO knows, goodwill alone will not generate success if it is left to the shifting winds of randomness. Effective systems are critical to the success of the Healing Hospital.  The importance of placing love at the center is that love creates an environment in which the employee partners become passionate creating systems that will work because they desire the best possible outcomes for patients."

Chapman continues, "Some of the things that characterize a Healing Hospital and Radical Loving Care are: 1) employee partners treat patients with loving care--we call this the continuous chain of caring. 2) every single leader treats staff with love and respect, 3) all hiring is done with a focus on finding people who have a Servant's Heart; 4) all orientation and staff reviews are focused on a balanced evaluation of both results and values, 5) people who cannot support this approach are respectfully removed from the organization.  It all begins with leadership."

And finally, "A core problem with the model of western medicine is described effectively by Drs. Moore and Komras in their outstanding book, Patient-Focused Healing. Therein, the authors refer to the subtle difference between curing and healing. They emphasize accurately that 'Whereas curing focuses on the disease or injury, healing focuses on the person experiencing the disease or injury...When healing is the goal, the definition of success is expanded to include what the patient has learned and how well the patient can cope even though complete curing may not be possible.'  The authors emphasize that healing is multi-dimensional and therefore takes into account emotional        and spiritual considerations as well as physical."

Understanding One's Self and Others

For centuries, people have sought to understand the nature of their own behavior and the behavior of others.  While there are many psychometric tools that claim to identify the energies that drive behavior, The Insights® Discovery Profile, based on the work of the Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, is the most accurate in applying Jung's seminal research on psychological type.  Attitudinal functions of introversion vs. extraversion, thinking vs. feeling, sensing vs. intuition and judging vs. perceiving reveal a person's dominant and inferior preferences, displayed with colors to represent the psychic energies.

This tool indicates how high one's preferences are for each function, since we all have both introversion and extroversion, both thinking and feeling, etc. without the error of polarity, which means that a person either has one or the other.  When taken repeatedly, the tool reveals changes that occur in preferences as a result of maturation, impactful experiences, etc.

The preferences that emerge within a team or group, enhance the acceptance of individual differences and the understanding of contrary behaviors.  The result is improved communication and greater collaboration among the participants.

The Mandela displayed on the following page reveals thinking in the top hemisphere and feeling in the bottom hemisphere.  Extroversion and Intuition are in the right hemisphere and Introversion and Sensing are in the left. Colors of the basic types:

RED                Extraverted Thinking (Be brief, be bright and be gone))

GREEN           Introverted Feeling (Show me you care)       

YELLOW         Extroverted Feeling (Involve me)

BLUE              Introverted Thinking (Give me details)

The remaining four wheel positions are combinations of the four basic color energies.







The Insights® Discovery Mandela



72 type wheel - blank









This information, while intrinsically good, is meaningless unless applied routinely. When well integrated into an organization, the color energies become a language that modifies the emotional response to energies of one's opposite type.  The opposite of Red is Green and the opposite of Yellow is Blue.  Typically, we are challenged mostly by behavior of one whose dominate energy is opposite our own.  However, with Insights-derived understanding, a person with dominate Green can accept the behavior of his opposite Red because he/she understands that the person's behavior, while contrary  to his own, is that person's natural way of behaving.

Care must be taken to avoid identifying others with a single color for to do so diminishes a person's true energy complexity.  For example, avoid saying, "He's a Red person." Rather say, "He is coming from his dominate Red energy today."

Leadership is everyone's job

Leading one's self--We are responsible to lead ourselves, essentially in the way we live our lives.  Are we emotionally as well as intellectually intelligent? Do we eat nutritious food and maintain our weight at a healthy level? Do we get sufficient sleep on a regular basis. The four main causes of death are 1.obesity 2. tobacco, 3. recreational drugs and 4. alcohol.  Therefore, we can have dominion over much of our physical well-being. Do we strive to think positively, even when there are difficulties. Even in the midst of a problem situation, there is always the seed of a blessings. When we look for the blessing, and not just at the problem, the blessing will ultimately be revealed.

Leading up (followership)--We have a responsibility to a boss or superior to perform our work as clearly expected.  If the superior is performing inappropriately, we have a responsibility to convey the nature of his/her behavior in a caring manner that will appear neither offensive nor insubordinate.

Leading peers--As a member of a staff or team we are responsible to our colleagues to perform our role in a productive and conscientious manner.  We should never shirk our duty and let others carry the load.

Leading others--A true leader will always subordinate his/her ego needs to build the self-esteem of a staff, a team or an entire organization. In a healthcare organization this is especially true of physicians, nurses and all who are routinely in contact with patients and their families. A smile does wonders to  promote healing, as does addressing people by name.  Leaders seek to understand the nature and extent of a patient's illness or injury and to insure that patients and their families have a realistic prognosis of the aliment and the extent to which recovery or cure can be expected.

Finally, a leader seeks to lead all of his/her charges in mind, body and spirit.