The most important first step to becoming a successful leader in healthcare is to understand what is expected of a good leader. Leadership is not management. Managers strive to become good leaders and work to ensure that available resources are used to create the best results. Leaders develop a vision for the future of an organization, design strategies to achieve that vision, and clearly communicate both to staff. It’s a challenging, complex position. Those who earn a master’s degree in healthcare administration (MHA) are prepared with the skills to take on those challenges. Leadership, however, goes beyond having administrative skills.

Here are some of the traits and strategies that lead to success in healthcare administration.

Vision and Charisma

The World Health Organization lists a variety of attributes for successful healthcare leaders. They include having:

  • A sense of mission
  • A charismatic personality
  • The ability to influence people to work together for a common cause
  • Decisiveness
  • The ability to use creative problem solving to promote better care and a positive working environment

Ultimately, a successful leader in healthcare will use these skills to develop a realistic vision for the future that others will support.


Every in-depth look at leadership in any field mentions communication. For example, the Harvard Business Review states that “developing great communication skills is key to professional success. It serves nothing to develop an ambitious organizational plan if it is not communicated to managers and employees.” Effective communication includes both written and verbal communication, the ability to actively listen to others, the skill of considering many different options before making a decision, and consistency in how information is communicated.

Understanding Modern Perspectives

In a paper on healthcare leadership in the 21st century, the Alliance for Internal Medicine noted three important perspective viewpoints for healthcare administrators. They are:

  • Ensuring three issues are understood by the workforce: performance matters; value is key, and performance improvements require teamwork
  • Understanding that modern healthcare requires developing healthcare provider models that put the patient and community at the center of the medical practice
  • Understanding and communicating that modern management of patients and healthcare institutions requires interdisciplinary teams

Advanced Practical Skills

Vision, communication, and understanding the challenges of today’s healthcare systems are all key to the successful management of healthcare, but so is having advanced practical knowledge on the nuts and bolts of running a healthcare operation.

This includes expertise in budgeting and finance, management of resources, current government and industry regulations, effective management strategies, and the development of talent among employees and managers.

Taken together, these areas build a strong foundation for successful healthcare administration leadership. An MHA program offers the chance to build these skills, but it will take time, commitment and focus.