Part 1: Hiring Practices – The Science Behind NCHL’s 2013 National Health Leadership Survey

This series of posts relates to NCHL’s 2013 leadership development survey, which we will be closing out this week. If your hospital or health system did not receive an invitation to participate (or if you’re not sure but would like to participate), please contact Joyce Anne Wainio at

Accelerating development

In my last post I described research on the role of experience (vs. talent) in developing leadership and other competencies.  But  it’s just as important to understand that not all experiences are equally valuable.

In judging the value an experience may have, relevance is a particularly important criterion.  Sitting in a classroom or reading a book has little relevance by itself; it becomes relevant through its application to real-world challenges, or high-fidelity simulations.

Next is the nature of the challenges experiences provide.  A review by Cindy McCauley and Stephane Brutus (see p. 7) identified four characteristics of experiences with greater developmental value: Unfamiliar Responsibilities, Need for Substantial Change, Greater Responsibility or Latitude, and Dealing with Failure or Adversity.

Third, high-quality performance feedback is critical. In this realm, research is beginning to favor the highly methodical debriefing approaches pioneered by the military, such as the After-Action Review (AAR).  One recent and unusually well-controlled study by Scott DeRue and colleagues examined the impact of AARs in the context of an MBA program.  The use of a graduate education context allowed the researchers much greater control over the leadership development interventions they were testing; participants thus differed primarily on whether they received AAR-style feedback (experimental group), or  less-structured feedback delivered with comparable frequency (comparison group).  Results indicated that the leaders receiving AARs saw significantly greater improvement in their leadership capabilities vs. the comparison group.

Lastly, there are important individual differences in leaders’ abilities to receive and effectively use feedback, and to benefit from developmental experiences.  This underscores the importance of using effective approaches to identify high-potential candidates for whom leadership investments will yield the greatest potential for future success.

As always, I welcome additional feedback or questions about how the evidence base can help improve our leadership development practices.   Feel free to drop me a note or reply to this post – or see me live at NCHL’s annual conference on November 19th, 2013 in Chicago.

About Andrew Garman

Chief Executive Officer, NCHL; Professor, Health Systems Management Department, Rush University

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