Note to Women Trailblazers: Embrace Servant Leadership for Personal, Corporate Success

December 2021 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

By Michelle Daniels

Looking back on my 17 years at Encompass Group and how my tenure here has led to a leadership position in the company, I often think of two people who inspired my leadership style. Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” While Holocaust survivor and writer Corrie Ten Boom pointed out, “Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings … It’s something we make inside ourselves.” These individuals overcame incredible odds, going on to serve and encourage others. I realized if they could achieve so much despite tremendous adversity, their fundamental beliefs would be valuable in shaping my path to leadership. 

Female Leaders are a Different Breed

Much has been written about the differences in leadership styles of women and men. I believe women leaders have some distinct advantages; we’re more adaptable to changing needs and demands. Also, we tend to gravitate towards servant leadership naturally. To me, that means focusing on achieving organizational goals while prioritizing individuals and the culture in which they work. 

There are disadvantages to being a woman leader, too. Although responsible for many medical innovations, women still face misperceptions and inaccurate stereotypes. In some companies, there are tribal relationships that limit new members, leaving women leaders always on the outside looking in. The Lown Institute says 75 to 80 percent of healthcare workers are women, yet only 13 percent of healthcare executives are female.1 Some of our challenges are self-imposed: we try to be “everything to everyone” in our workplace, home and community, or we don’t support other women in their workplace advancements.  

Your Style as a Woman Leader Will Evolve

Knowing Encompass Group from many angles has been invaluable to my growth as a leader; I’ve worked in every department except accounting, inventory and distribution. I found you earn respect, rapport and camaraderie with people when you understand what they do, and a natural collaboration emerges. When you serve people first, empower them to do something well, they’re much more likely to serve you in return. 

What’s changed? I delegate more than I did earlier in my career. A female mentor once told me, “You can do all things but not at all times.” That certainly rings true as you advance through your career. Being delegative enables you to better support individual growth for others as well as yourself.

Advice for Women on the Healthcare Leadership Track

You’ve heard the saying, “Your candle doesn’t burn brighter by blowing out someone else’s.” Female (and male) employees should remember this as they move up the leadership ladder. Work together, uplift and encourage others, and listen more than you speak. Look upon your journey as a series of opportunities, not competitions.

Also, keep your roles in perspective. Yes, you’re a leader at work, but you are probably a leader at home and in your community. There are no awards for trying to do everything well and feeling you never measure up. On the day you retire, you’re back to being “only” a friend, volunteer, caregiver, wife, mom, sister, aunt, grandmother. Make room for fulfillment to occur in all parts of your life. 

Seek Employers Who Share Your Leadership Characteristics

I’m thrilled to have found a corporate home that exemplifies the leadership qualities I embrace. As a flagbearer in professional apparel, therapeutic support surfaces, healthcare textiles and medical products, Encompass Group has emerged as a leader due to four primary characteristics:

  • People-focused, not transactional 
  • Innovation-minded
  • Reliability 
  • Integrity

The Encompass Group culture has taught me so much about being a better leader. For women leaders in healthcare and other industries, I hope you find an environment that nurtures your skills and makes you feel proud to contribute to its growth. 

Michelle Daniels is Vice-President, Product Strategy, Development and Administration for Encompass Group.

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