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This Moment of Crisis Calls for Leaders to Restore Individual Dignity

By Glenn Llopis

We’re witnessing a dramatic shift in healthcare away from standardization—the ideology that the business defines the individual.This change was well underway even before the pandemic and rising social unrest, but the events of 2020 have certainly accelerated this evolution. 

This year, we recognize Hispanic Heritage Month by acknowledging the unique challenges of a year defined by a pandemic, lockdowns, social unrest and a general feeling of uncertainty and instability,  especially among communities of color.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Hispanic communities in the U.S. On top of that, data from the Pew Research Center shows Hispanic women have experienced a steeper decline in employment (‑21%) in the COVID-19 downturn than other women or men. Another recent study found a whopping 65% of Latino households have faced at least one of these hardships: job loss, hours/wages cut, or loss of their self-employment, and 43% of Latino adults report that they will have trouble making rent. 

We’ve all been disrupted on a massive scale this year. But for healthcare leaders—whether you identify as, work with, employ or care for Latino people—it’s important to be aware of the unique challenges of different communities.

A Shift Accelerated

I’ve been talking about the Cultural Demographic Shift for the past decade. CDS is my term for what happens when large cultural segments of the population reach numbers sufficient enough to have a significant effect on what we do and how we act.

That shift is in full force. Look at this recent Brookings analysis of the U.S. population:

  • In 1980, 80% of the population identified as white; by 2000, that had dropped to 69.1% and by 2019 it is estimated to stand at 60.1%.
  • Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau ahead of the 2020 results show that more than 50% of those under 16 identified as a minority in 2019.
  • The 2010 to 2020 decade will be the first in the nation’s history in which the white population declined in numbers.

The demographics of workforce and patient population are changing even faster than we thought. These younger generations are proud of their diversity, they’re not going to try to fit into one single definition of a successful employee or a successful leader. Good leaders will see that change as an opportunity to embrace individuality.

Restoring Dignity

It’s crucial in healthcare that we return to a leadership that restores our humanity. This is relevant whether you’re treating a patient or whether you’re managing supply chain for a multinational enterprise, overseeing the curriculum of a higher education institution or creating marketing programs for an innovative new service.

The health crisis right now is massive. The parallel crisis right now is the 25% unemployment rate, which rivals the Great Depression. The economic impact is huge, but so is the emotional impact. When we don’t have work, or when we don’t have enough work, or when we don’t have work that lets us contribute our best, we feel a lack of dignity. These feelings are not specific to any one race or ethnicity, but people of color, including Latinos and Latinas, are being disproportionally impacted by the physical and economic threats related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why I believe that dignity at scale equals individual capacity at scale. Individuals tend to feel and internalize the most dignity when they are able to tackle a worthwhile challenge using their full brain, full set of skills, full expertise and full talent. When people are able to do that, they can contribute at their full capacity.

Healthcare leaders can help all employees, including minorities, contribute at full capacity by making sure team members:

  • Understand the challenges they are trying to solve for.
  • Know how to recognize others’ unique contributions.
  • Collaborate to come up with creative solutions.

It’s important for leaders to build systems that enable individual capacities to be elevated and activated. By tying the core of our business back to the humanity of every employee and patient, leaders can help reduce the disparities that exist in healthcare and society.  

Editor’s Note: Learn more about how to break out of the standardization mindset during the Leadership in the Age of Personalization Virtual Summit, Oct. 28–30. Hear from Industry leaders including ACHE Member Glenn Llopis, president, GLLG; Gyasi C. Chisley, FACHE, president/CEO, hospitals and clinics, Cancer Treatment Centers of America; and ACHE Governor Teri G. Fontenot, FACHE, CEO emeritus, Woman’s Hospital.


Glenn Llopis (glenn@glennllopisgroup.com) is Cuban-American and the author of the books, Earning Serendipity, The Innovation Mentality and Leadership in the Age of Personalization. He is also the president of GLLG, a nationally recognized consulting firm that builds high-performance leaders, teams and cultures focusing on inclusion and the power of individuality to achieve growth.

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