Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part article.

Holistic thinking, multitasking and critical thinking are key characteristics young leaders — especially women — should develop to advance in the workforce. 

Those attributes were among several recommended by a panel of honored women leaders who spoke last week during a McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum session. The event served as an opportunity for the inductees to share personal stories and tips for career success. McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Executive Director James M. Berklan was the moderator. 

What skills would you like to see young women leaders develop?

Mary Ousley, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, shared that she loves to see young leaders take a holistic approach to problem-solving. 

“I frequently speak with senior students who are getting their healthcare administration degrees. I think they’re always surprised when I say that is the No. 1 thing I would like for them to understand better and have them manage either a single facility or a large organization using those principles,” said Ousley, chief strategy officer at PruittHealth. That type of approach, she added, is an immediate offshoot of “true systems thinking.” 

“I find so many of our young people today, they look at a problem and they isolate one thing, and they think if they fix that one thing then the problem will go away. That’s not the way it works,” she said. “You have to look at all of the parts of what creates that problem in order to truly solve it.” 

Being a risk-taker, critical thinker and someone who values evidence are keys to success, as far as Robyn Stone, Dr.PH., LeadingAge’s senior vice president of research, is concerned.

“To my mind, critical thinking around every process that you are engaged in is really important,” Stone said. “We are in a world where we need to be able to differentiate between homegrown things that get pulled out of the ear and processes that really have an evidence-base and strong data and knowledge behind them.” 

Patricia Will, Belmont Village Senior Living founder and CEO, said she tries to nurture young leaders’ ability to multitask and “color outside the lines” as well as focus on their communication skills. 

“We [women] have a tendency to try to perfect a task more than the guys, as opposed to multitasking and articulating the full picture,” she explained. 

What role do confidence, assertiveness and emotional intelligence play in the formation of a leader?

Having confidence, assertiveness and high emotional intelligence boils down to being a person who is able to establish healthy relationships with those they serve and with whom they work, said Birmingham Green CEO Denise Chadwick Wright.

“You can have education and a high IQ, but if you’re not able to develop those healthy relationships then, while working with others and working with a team, it’s going to be hard to be successful. I believe that could be developed by being intentional,” she said. 

A person’s mindset plays a big role in her development as a leader, added Green House Project Senior Director Susan Ryan. 

“As a leader myself, I have wanted to extend belief in a person,” she said. “It really is creating the intention, believing that we deserve a seat at the table and that we’re going to do the preparation and the equipping to support each other to be successful.” 

Next up: How the honorees got into their current leadership positions and the role that mentorship plays in career success.

To watch the full hour long panel discussion at the McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum, register for free here.