By Steve Moran

I bet if I asked you to name some excellent senior living leaders, they would almost certainly be people you would also label as mavericks. And there is no doubt that mavericks are really good at creating things and breaking things. What gets missed is that mavericks also have a high propensity to crash and burn. But somehow we are a lot better at remembering the successful ones than the crash and burn ones.

We tend to believe that mavericks are better leaders. Maybe even that the only way to be a great leader is to be a maverick. We have a kind of hero mentality that suggests these maverick leaders, like John Wayne (is that reference too dated?) have a magical or mythical ability to all by themselves to think about things, figure things out, and conquer things. They vanquish the bad and elevate the good. The kind of leader everyone should want to be.

Maybe not!

Leadership styles vary a lot and the research is clear that there is no one perfect leadership style. It depends on the leader’s personality, the team’s personality, the stage the company is in, and perhaps even the industry sector.  

Does a Maverick Style Work in Senior Living?

Here is why this question is important. Because we have attached such mythical value to the maverick leadership style it is easy to be sucked into the idea that a leader has to strive to be a maverick to be successful.

While I can name a couple of maverick senior living leaders who appear to be very successful, I can make a much longer list of senior living mavericks who have crashed and burned big time.

The Right Leadership Style for Senior Living

Ultimately it depends on you, but it is hard to believe that you should be shooting to be a maverick leader. Great leaders in senior living have a single job and that is to make sure their team members are in love with their jobs, in love with their residents, in love with the company, and in love with the mission of the company.

This is a lot easier to do when you as a leader do not need to be the star of the show, to be the decision-maker of everything important.

Today senior living is in a crisis of occupancy, leadership, marketing, lifestyle, and cost containment. Whatever style you seek to follow has to ensure your team members are all the real stars, which is more than just lawn signs. I am not disparaging lawn signs, but a year from now they won’t really mean very much.

Final thoughts . . .

Mostly they are not talking about it, but there are some senior living organizations out there that are doing as well as they ever have. Their occupancy is deep into the 90% cohort, their residents have active social lives, and they have never stopped moving residents into their communities. I am begging them to let me share their stories but they are not willing to let go of that competitive advantage.

What I find funny about that is, ultimately it is simply great leadership and that is the secret sauce.