Health Care Coalitions:  Structure and Leadership

Health Care Coalitions: Structure and Leadership

Leadership is hard.  It can be the most successful thing you do in your organization, while at the same time, the most challenging.  If you have a breakdown in leadership, your coalition will be the one that suffers and so will your cause.  On the other hand, if you have a great leader and no organizational structure, again your coalition and cause will be the ones that fail.  To be successful, you will need both good structure and great leadership for your healthcare coalition to be successful.  For this month's article on Coalition Building, Looking at Barriers One by One, I will be focused on Failure of Structure and/or Leadership.

Failure of Coalition Structure

Any group will need structure and organization to keep it running smoothly.  If you're the leader and do not have great organizational skills, bring in someone to help you.  There is no reason why there needs to be just one leader in a healthcare coalition.  In reality for large coalitions, it should be a team of leaders.  If we think back to the incident command system for disasters that cross jurisdictions, there is always a unified command to make joint decisions.  Just think as emergency planners and responders, we have already been trained to work in a group to achieve one common goal.  Your healthcare coalition works the same way.

Wikipedia defines organizational structure as a set-up to "define how activities such as task allocation, coordination, and supervision are directed towards the achievement of organizational aims."  In other words, structure is like the foundation of your coalition.  If you set it up strong and sturdy, your coalition will have a good start to reach the end result, resilient healthcare response.

The Prevention Institute developed a booklet on coalition building entitled, DEVELOPING EFFECTIVE COALITIONS:  An Eight Step Guide.  While there is a whole page on the details of structural issues, below is a summary of some concepts that need to be defined:

a) Coalition life expectancy;

b) Meeting location, frequency, and length;

c) Membership parameters;

d) Decision making processes;

e) Meeting agendas; and

f) Participation between meetings.

You will want to work through the above considerations with your board or advisory committee before starting the full coalition.  It is like writing a set of by-laws in a less formal setting.  This is when you are building your foundation/structure for the coalition to be successful.  Read the full guide here.

"Once an organization loses its spirit of pioneering and rests on its early work, its progress stops."

--Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

Failure to Provide and Create Leadership Within the Coalition
Coalitions are different in the way they work because it is across organizations with different personalities, and most likely, members on your coalition will already be a leader in their own organizations.  To be successful, each coalition member needs to buy-in to the project (Read Coalition Building; Looking at Barriers One by One: Gaining Buy-in here.), feel needed, and also feel like they have great leadership and motivation within the coalition itself.  A tough challenge for anyone to step up to, but possible!  While everyone needs to feel like they are part of the team and just as important as the next guy, the coalition also needs to have a leader.  There are different leadership styles, methods, and personalities that will play into this equation, but ultimately, the successes and failures always fall back on the defined leader.

"Leadership is not magnetic personality — that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not 'making friends and influencing people' -- that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to high sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations."

--Peter F. Drucker

If we take it a step further and put the responsibility of leadership on the coalition, you will have a group of leaders coming together to work on one common goal of effective response.  This thought is inline with the definition of leadership given by good ol' Wiki.  It defines leadership as "a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task."  The healthcare coalition will be in charge of healthcare preparedness and response for their community.

The leader or leadership team chosen to run the coalition will need to be able to make decisions, delegate, anticipate potential problems, diffuse current problems, listen, and be strong willed, yet quiet.  The bigger challenge is doing these things over a whole group of coalition members that are already leaders in their own sector.  "A good leader is not the person who does things right, but the person who finds the right things to do."                                                                        --Anthony T. Dadovano

It's a fine balance, but it can be done and has been done successfully.  Ultimately in a coalition, you need a strong leader that can move the coalition forward in the right direction, keeping the foundation strong while keeping peace.  Stay tuned for next month's article on Coalition Building; Looking at Barriers One by One: Poor Links to the Community.



*Structure - Construction of a Coalition, CDFS-11, Penne Smith & Charles H. Bell:  Minimal Organizational Capacity

Other bParati Coalition Building Articles:

*2014 Goal: Coalition Building

*Coalition Building:  Getting Started

Tsoetsy Harris, MPH, MEP

Tsoetsy Harris, MPH, MEP

Independent Consultant

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In all we do, we seek to reduce human suffering and loss of life caused by disasters.

We get it done by connecting the preparedness efforts of healthcare organizations, emergency management agencies, and public health departments through effective, financially self-sustaining healthcare coalitions.

Yes, we believe healthcare coalitions are the path forward.

Karl Schmitt, Passionate Founder & CEO, bParati

Karl SchmittPassionate Founder & CEO

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