3 Ways You Can Help Develop the Next Generation of LTSS Leaders

Robyn's Read | April 29, 2015

A laundry list of challenges will face leaders in the field of long-term services and supports (LTSS) over the next decade. How can we ensure that we'll have leaders with the skills to meet these challenges? Robyn Stone has a few ideas. They all require a personal commitment from you.

A laundry list of challenges -- and a seemingly endless litany of expectations -- will face leaders in the field of long-term services and supports (LTSS) over the next decade.

On the one hand, we’ll expect those leaders to manage a care delivery system for more older people who face more complicated health, functional, financial and social challenges.

These leaders will also need to develop innovative business models that are highly responsive to the increasing demands and personal preferences of our nation’s changing older cohort.

And they’ll need to do all of this with the help of fewer professional and family caregivers and less government support.

What’s it going to take to develop leaders who have the special set of skills required to pull this off?

I’ve got a few ideas. But I have to warn you. Each one requires a personal commitment from every leader currently working in the field of aging services.

This means you.

Leadership Training: Roll Up Your Sleeves

Given the challenges ahead, it’s no wonder that we are seeing a renewed emphasis on strategies to help young professionals build the skills that Forbes attributes to good leaders: creativity, intuition, an ability to communicate, delegate and inspire -- plus a pretty hefty dose of confidence, commitment, positivity, honesty and humor.

LeadingAge has been at the forefront of this leadership-development movement, through our successful Leadership Academy. More than a dozen LeadingAge state affiliates also sponsor these academies. 

The International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing will bring this movement to the global stage when it sponsors a Leadership Retreat in Perth, Australia, this summer. 

These are all great opportunities, but their existence doesn’t mean we’ve done our job on the leadership-training front. In fact, we need many more leadership academies and retreats, in many more parts of the country, before we can be assured that every aspiring leader has the skills needed to move our field forward.

What we need from you: 

We need more LTSS leaders to participate in developing, supporting and implementing leadership training programs.

I participated in one such leadership workshop this winter with 25 graduate students in the Management of Aging Services program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Erickson School. 

I was incredibly impressed by the diligence and creativity that these mid-career and young professionals brought to classroom exercises that challenged them to solve real-world problems. 

We worked together to tease out how we might grow and expand our field, build good business cases for new LTSS models, and make those models more affordable.

You could do the same thing in your own geographic area. Work with your local college or university to develop training programs for aspiring LTSS leaders. And then roll up your sleeves: 

  • Volunteer to assist with curriculum development. 
  • Offer to teach a session or two so trainees are solidly grounded in the realities of the work you do. 
  • Provide on-site opportunities for trainees to practice their knowledge and skills and to become more committed to this field. 

Mentorship: Get Busy

During this year’s meeting of the American Society on Aging, I sat down with a gerontology student for a video interview about my 40-year career in the field of gerontology. The interview was part of the Women in Gerontology Legacy project supported by the Gerontological Society of America’s Committee on Women’s Issues.

I can’t overstate how cool it was to explore, along with other women gerontologists, exactly what brought me to this field, what made me stay, and what helped me succeed.

My walk down memory lane yielded a powerful insight.

During our professional lives, all of us stand on the shoulders of the men and women who came before us. Each and every day -- through chance encounters and ongoing relationships -- these professionals teach us what they know. They advise us about which paths to take and which ones to avoid. They answer our questions. They encourage us to follow their example.

In short, they serve as our mentors.

I’m grateful to the men and women who mentored me, and I hope I’ve guided some of the professionals who now lead our field or are getting ready to assume leadership roles.

What we need from you: 

Mentorship isn’t an option for current leaders in the field of long-term services and supports. It is an imperative because it’s one of the best ways I know to ensure the sustainability of the work we do.

So let’s get busy.

Start mentoring our future leaders. Forty years hence, they will look back with gratitude at those who supported them on their professional journeys. And believe me. That gratitude will be shared by the entire LTSS field.

Recognition: Nominate a Nurse Leader

In addition to training and mentoring our future leaders, we also need to pat them on the back—and hold them up as an example -- when they embody the ideals to which we all aspire.

That’s what the LeadingAge Center for Applied Research has been doing for the past 10 years through the Joan Anne McHugh Award for Leadership in Long-Term Services and Supports Nursing.

The McHugh Award, which is presented at each year’s LeadingAge Annual Meeting, is a great way to recognize a rising nurse leader and to shine a spotlight on the characteristics that we’d like aspiring nurse leaders to develop: clinical excellence, leadership and commitment.

What we need from you:

This is the easiest thing I will recommend that you do this year.

Simply review the McHugh Award nomination brochure and start the process of recognizing a nurse who has the potential to be a leader in our field because she is a leader in your organization.

Deadline for nominations is June 26.

We hope to hear from you and look forward to meeting your nurse leader at this year’s Annual Meeting.