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Survey Sees Looming Crisis for Healthcare Leadership


Many North American health-care organizations are expected to face a leadership succession crisis based on a survey of 117 senior industry executives and managers by American Management Association/Corporate Learning Solutions.

Fewer than 7% of health-care organizations are seen as well prepared to deal with a sudden loss of key leaders, according to the survey. Only 8% possess a robust leadership pipeline and 44% have only adequate bench strength. And although 74% of respondents believe a smooth management transition is now increasingly critical, only one-quarter of industry organizations are said to be genuinely committed to succession planning.

“Based on our findings it seems that healthcare lags behind other industries in terms of leadership development and management succession,” said Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for American Management Association/Corporate Learning Solutions, which offers advisory services and tailored learning programs to organizations. “In fact, nearly one-third of HMOs, hospital chains or healthcare providers are ‘not at all prepared’ for the loss of key members of their senior management team.”

In your opinion, how prepared is your organization to deal with a sudden loss of key members of the senior management team?

Well prepared


Somewhat prepared


Not at all prepared


Don’t know


According to Edwards, the AMA survey provides revealing insights into how the industry’s leadership is perceived. “We get broad perspective on health-care leadership as well as management succession preparedness because our input spans both middle to senior-level people at more than 100 of the industry’s largest organizations across the U.S. and Canada. The survey gives us a glimpse of how industry insiders see things.”

Survey respondents had similarly unfavorable opinions of the health-care leadership pipeline, Edwards said. “And insiders weren’t reticent about expressing their viewpoint. More than 40% believe the industry’s supply of future leaders is inadequate.”

How would you describe the leadership pipeline at your organization?







Don’t know


Planning for a smooth management succession is more crucial than in past years, according to the respondents. “Seventy-four percent, the overwhelming majority, think it’s now more important, 24% that it’s about the same, and only 2% that it’s less important,” Edwards noted. “All the same, with the amount of scrutiny on the healthcare industry today it is a bit surprising that there is not more intensity and focus on developing future leaders in this sector. Almost one-third do no management succession planning whatsoever, and another quarter leave the task to the HR department with doubtful backing from senior management. Fewer than one in ten has what might be considered a comprehensive development program based on strategic business objectives.”

Among other findings:

In terms of promoting from within, 28% are very committed to doing so and 52% are only somewhat committed.

Thirty-four percent of organizations often ignore the management succession plan and go outside to recruit key people.

While the senior management of nearly half (44%) of healthcare organizations is “sporadic” in its commitment to succession planning, one in five (21%) pays just “lip service.”

Senior healthcare management has clearly been busy cost cutting and surviving for the past two years, Edwards observed. “And it’s time now for investment in sustainability and competitive advantage, which must be based on talent. Having the best people in pivotal leadership roles, prepared to step in at any time, is essential for future success.”

But persuading organizations to make management succession a true priority is often a daunting task, said Edwards. “We certainly know that finding, growing and retaining leadership are not easy, but the challenge has become more pressing than ever.”

AMA Corporate Learning Solutions conducted the online survey in December 2010 in order to probe perceptions of corporate bench strength as well as management succession preparedness in healthcare as well as other industries. The study population primarily consisted of senior-level business, human resources and management professional contacts drawn from the AMA.

About American Management Association/Corporate Learning Solutions
With more than 85 years’ experience and headquartered in New York, American Management Association (www.amanet.org) is a leading provider of comprehensive leadership, management and talent development programs. AMA’s specialized division, Corporate Learning Solutions, partners with corporations and government agencies to provide results oriented training solutions that are aligned with business, culture and workforce strategies.

AMA is one of the most widely recognized leaders in business training, having provided corporate training solutions for over 95 years. From leadership, communication and managerial training to sales, customer service and analytical skills, AMA has developed a vast array of content and training solutions to help individuals and organizations achieve business results . Each year, AMA delivers thousands of seminars and courses across the United States. With courses offered in a  classroom near you or live online, AMA is a flexible, convenient resource for all of your organization's talent development needs. AMA also offers customized solutions based on your specific talent development requirements.