Healthcare IT leaders have myriad problems to solve in their daily lives, and those urgent demands often drown out the need to identify others with leadership potential.

That has to change, contends Rachel Hall, executive director of performance improvement at Ernst & Young, who has strong opinions about the obligation of women leaders in healthcare IT to identify and mentor potential leaders.

“There is no secret box to what a potential leader looks like,” says Hall, who will speak on this topic at next week’s Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT event in Boston. The day-long conference will be held May 17 in Boston.

To be effective in finding and supporting emerging leaders, executives need to “identify those with capabilities and leadership and show them a path,” says Hall, who is also one of the top 75 honorees selected by Health Data Management this year. For example, Ernst & Young has a mentor program for women who are new mothers with the goal of supporting them so they can remain in the workforce during this period of changing needs.

Seek out women who have a range of characteristics that bring value to an organization, including assertiveness, honesty, influence, the ability to show a vision, as well as those who know what their own biases are and can work to overcome them, Hall will tell her peers. “People think men are more assertive than women, but it’s important for us to be assertive as well.”

There are perceptions that can hold back women, and these must be brought to the surface, Hall believes. A particular woman in an organization, for instance, may be ready for promotion, but there may be a perception that that she doesn’t speak up in meetings. To counter that, a mentor should present a strategy to overcome what’s holding her back, Hall says. But it could be a double-edged sword—she may be trying not to speak because she’s being respectful of others, or she may not have a vision.

Hall will implore others to become passionate about growing women leaders and to push them. “It is the person-to-person interactions and the ability to bounce ideas off other people that has made my career fulfilling as I watch them grow in their careers,” she says.

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