The Leadership Competency

The competency of leadership is integral to the COLLABORATE© model. But I wonder if how we define or perceive leadership impacts the way in which each of us, as case managers, embody it.

Chemers 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” (1997). Peter Drucker wrote that “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”. Having worked within a number of large corporations, I can honestly say I subscribe to Drucker’s view because I have worked under many managers but can count the number of real leaders on one hand.

Earlier this year, I read an article in Psychology Today and this excerpt about being a leader stuck with me, “being the leader does not always mean you deserve to be the leader. And just because you are the leader does not mean you have a right to lead others. You have been granted the privilege to lead others. Being the leader means that you have been placed in a position to serve others—your customers, investors, your team…” (Sindell & Sindell, 2013).

This got me to thinking about leadership as it relates to being a case manager. My clients place me in various leadership positions. A patient-client confers on me the right to foster them (or their loved one) through the maze of complex health care. As a consultant, clients compensate me to lead through education and behavioral example.  As a public figure, I was (and still am) expected to represent the concerns of the many, as opposed to the interests of a few, in order to further the recognition of case management. But how do I personify leadership internally? How does the leadership competency exhibit itself in my day-to-day interactions? And subsequently, am I worthy of the privilege of leadership? I believe those to be essential questions that every case manager must consider for themselves.

For those reading this who do not consider themselves a “leader”, perhaps that is because you are confining your definition to a more bureaucratic construct. Leadership has nothing to do with an organizational chart. That’s simply a management structure. In COLLABORATE©, it is recognized that “When addressing the leadership competency, it is essential to remember that case management leadership happens in every aspect of practice and professional identity—from academia and professional associations where formal education and training provide the theoretical and practice foundation to supervision and management where policy and procedure reflect practice standards and evidence-based research to the front-line where effective and efficient hands-on coordination of care is based on skill strengths and abilities guided by client goals in partnership with a professional case manager and health care team” (Treiger & Fink-Samnick, 2013).

We need to start deconstructing our beliefs about what authentic leadership is all about. It isn’t being the president or the manager or the director.  For those who rely on those titles as a conference of power, think again.  People will not follow you if you do not demonstrate a reason why they should do so. Perhaps if we look at followership, it may help us to identify critical needs for case management leadership. Bersin (2013) identifies three points of followership:
1. We follow people with character because they have a moral compass.
2. We follow people who help us grow because they respect and bring out the best in each of us, help us do great things, and help us understand how to overcome our own weaknesses.
3. We follow people who have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, which make them real.

For a long while, I did not spend much time analyzing the qualities of why I found some people worthy of following. In retrospect, it seems that it was more an issue of personal influence and charisma.  If I heard or read something that struck a chord in the context of my experience or beliefs, I tended to becoming a disciple (more or less) of that person’s doctrine.  But if experience has taught me anything, it is to take the time to scratch beneath the veneer of what gets pushed out for public consumption to make sure my eyes are wide open. When I have blindly followed, I have regretted it, more often than not.

So with that in mind, I consider the approach that I utilize with any patient-client because I have the expectation that they will initially follow me as we proceed down the case management process path inclusive of assessing, planning, implementing, coordinating, monitoring, evaluating, and eventually disengaging. As we scratch below the surface and establish our relationship, I understand more of what each person needs, what their barriers are, how best to leverage their strengths, and most importantly how to build their self-confidence to take the reins in the hope that they will eventually manage their own health care, or at least take a more invested role in their care. I tell each person what I plan on doing, and do what I said I would.  I negotiate with each as to what they are going to do, and expect them to do what they agree upon.

So what does this come down to? Well for me, it means maintaining a level of professional integrity so that it is worth the time and effort of followership, be it a peer, a patient-client or an institutional engagement. If you believe that people will buy into something you say (or write) simply because of who you are or that you tell them to do it… think again! Today’s “client” seeks a reason to follow; some evidence of you being worthy of their loyalty and commitment. If I do not display character, do not demonstrate respect for others, ignore my own personal weaknesses or consider myself invulnerable simply because of who I am or a position I occupy, it is a recipe for my ultimate failure.

So turn this around and consider this… Instead of thinking that you are a good “leader”… ponder a while on the question, are you worthy of being followed?

Now get out there an COLLABORATE©!


Bersin , J. ( 2013 ). To understand leadership, study “Followership.”
Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://www

Chemers M. (1997) An integrative theory of leadership. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8058-2679-1.

Sindell, M and Sindell, T.H., (2013). The Golden Rule of Leadership.

Treiger, T.M. and Fink-Samnick, E. (2013). COLLABORATE©: A Universal, Competency-Based Paradigm for Professional Case Management Practice, Part II; Professional Case Management, 18(5), 219-243.

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