Today’s interview is with a CEO who has risen to the top of his organization over a period of decades. While not a physician, he knows the world of healthcare from a multitude of different positions, all of which have given him a breadth of leadership experiences that he uses well today as he leads within a rapidly changing corporate structure.
You have to chose and develop a lot of leaders in your position. What do you look for in a prospective leader?
They have to be able to listen. They have to have a track record of developing people. They need to know how to make decisions. And, perhaps more importantly in today’s environment, they need to be able to to deal with ambiguity.
And for non-physicians working with medical professionals, a leader needs to know that the physician population is extremely intelligent and that their training can lead them to appear almost cocky in how they interact with people. A key is to acknowledge both their training and their intelligence and be extremely clear in what is being required and why it is being required.
I look for patterns of how they support others. How are they getting feedback on performance and goals from all sectors? Are they applying best practice to everything they do. In medicine we strongly practice the peer-review concept to the clinical practice. I want that peer review to be practiced in all the sectors of their leadership.
Anything else you look for?
They need to be able to work within a matrixed organization. This means being able to see the big picture constantly. A person’s department and it’s performance is extremely important, but too many get caught up with those limits. Instead, I want my leaders to see a system picture. A good leader should advocate for another department with equal adamacy as they do for their own if it is for the good of the system.
They need to be able to work within the grey zone. This grey zone comes from the world of diving and refers to when the light from above fades and the black from below darkens and the diver has few, if any, reference points. It is very difficult to be comfortable with this and essential that it happen.
They need to be comfortable in sharing power. If one is not comfortable with that, it is a good indicator that their ego is too involved in the process. This does not work within our organization. A person cannot be a true system thinker and have ego involved.
They need to understand the customer. The customer is not just the patient. In today’s world it is a broader market also. What do these customers want? How do you find that out?
Additionally, they need to be good at delegating and following up. They need to know how to develop talent. They need to know how to mentor and to coach.
At the beginning you mentioned listening as a key aspect? Anything more on that?
Great leaders are listeners because that is how they know they can learn. Listening and humility go hand-in-hand. When they listen, they have to be asking questions. They have to want to know what the other person knows and why it is important to them. They also need to search out the quiet voices at the table and give them permission to speak. These voices, though quiet, can bring some of the most powerful views to the table. Listening also requires that the person know what the group dynamics are. Some people are talkers and others are processors. Leaders have to let those dynamics run so that all the opinions are brought forward. A leader needs to not come in with the answers. A leader takes people to the next step even though he/she might not know what that next step even is, specifically. Even if you do know the desired answer, don’t dominate the dialogue. Seek the perspective of the group. A good listener also takes a big step toward effectively leading conflict situations. Since good listeners have put their ego to the side, then they are able to listen to both perspectives and help calm the waters. Listening is underrated since it sounds so simple. Actually, though, it is one of the most difficult things to do as a leader, since it takes time and effort to truly do well.