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Emerging aged care leaders need room for personal development: Cornelissen

Aged care organisations need to nurture aspiring leaders by providing a safe space to learn, grow and develop, says Mercy Health Group chief executive Stephen Cornelissen who recently took out a top leadership award.

Much of the learning young leaders need is not knowledge or task based but rather centres around personal development, reflection and formation, said Mr Cornelissen.

Mercy Health CEO Stephen Cornelissen

Mercy Health CEO Stephen Cornelissen who was named CEO of the Year

“Mentors can assist with this but equally so can a culture of trust, collectivism and teamwork,” he said.

Last Friday Mr Cornelissen was named CEO of the Year and Health & Pharmaceuticals Executive of the Year at the 2016 CEO Magazine Executive of the Year Awards.

Speaking to Australian Ageing Agenda this week Mr Cornelissen said there were not many aged care providers that gave developing leaders the opportunity to engage fully in the most important question facing leaders: why do we do this?

“It is the question that can sustain a career and an organisation and it’s the only question we need to answer to maintain a focus on our customers,” said Mr Cornelissen, who has been CEO at Mercy Health since July 2011.

A framework for developing leaders

Mercy Health recently introduced a Leadership Capability Framework to articulate the behaviours that current and emerging leaders should aspire to model at each stage of their career journey with the organisation, he said.

“In addition, we ask our managers and leaders to participate in ethos and values formation, which we believe provides an additional overlay to their development as authentic leaders.”

As the framework is relatively new, the next phase is to embed it into attraction, retention and talent management processes, he said.

“This will ensure we continue to engage and develop people who are genuinely passionate about caring for those in need and leading others in this journey.”

Staffing a major challenge for leaders

Elsewhere, Mr Cornelissen said that engaging and retaining staff is one of the biggest challenges facing aged care leaders.

“The other challenge will be how we continue to respond to the needs of those who entrust us with their care while meeting the business and financial imperatives to remain viable and sustainable,” he said.

While both issues present major challenges, they also offer opportunities to think creatively and develop new ways of caring, he said.

“Whether it be connecting residents with new technology or rethinking how we provide care on a daily basis, we must be continuously looking to improve our services.

“We also need to create an evidence base to support the care we are giving and the outcomes we are achieving or want to achieve. We need leaders who will not only pursue continuous improvement but support and engage in specific research to build a better way of caring.”

As an industry that is highly regulated and dealing with vulnerable people, aged care needed leaders “who have ambidextrous skills establishing organisations that are nimble, agile and responsive while ensuring they have the necessary compliance, assurance and quality outcomes structures,” Mr Cornelissen said.

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