The definition of what makes an ideal leader is evolving. In healthcare that evolution is about to kick into high gear.
An A+ leader is one who can excite and energize the troops to help them move through the dramatic shifts in how a business must operate in a global economy. Jack Welch, former GE Chairman and CEO, felt this was the essence of a good leader.
For 20 years Welch successfully led GE espousing that philosophy. Today the top business leaders of this decade relentlessly focus on finding executives who can energize and excite their personnel in leading more and managing less. The “lead more manage less” style is essential, especially in times of sweeping transformation of an industry like the one healthcare is facing today.
Command-and-control executives, whose style evolved from former military veterans who rose to senior leadership positions following World War II, will not be able to achieve long-term sustainable results necessary for business success. So, the first step to finding a career-enhancing cure is to find out if you have been afflicted with this deadly command-and-control style leadership virus.
The following test is vintage Welch, according to Robert Slater, former newsman and author who wrote two books on the GE CEO.
1. Do you think you hold more meetings than is necessary?
2. Do you believe you issue too many memos, electronic or otherwise? Remember, emails replace memos.
3. Do you find yourself approving most decisions made by your direct reports?
4. Do you find you are too hands-on in your direct reports’ decision making?
5. Do you feel that in monitoring and supervising, you create more red tape than is needed such as written approvals?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, there is every reason to be concerned. If you work in an organization whose corporate culture embraces this type of leadership, it is not too late to find another job.
Note: Mr. Slater, a journalist and the author of more than two dozen books, including biographies of figures as diverse as the Israeli leader Golda Meir, the businessman Jack Welch and the billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, died on March 25 in Jerusalem. He was 70.
© 2014 John Gregory Self
While John spends most of his time in Dallas or on the road, his official residence is in Tyler, Texas whose court system has summoned him for jury duty. In the meantime, this blog first appeared on March 25, 2014.
Continuing education is one lifeline for personal and professional growth. I just attended the American College of Healthcare Executives annual Congress in Chicago. While I was there primarily to serve as a faculty member, I got a chance to sit in on several sessions.
One interesting take away came from global healthcare futurist and consultant Dr. Virginia Richardson (previously with HealthCiertO, currently with The Institute for Leadership in Medicine) who predicted that once the declining cost of genetic risk testing fell to $350 it would become a standard of care for all Americans to know their risks for serious or even life-ending disease. With increasing numbers of Americans using their results to address personal health risks, and with dramatic improvements in treatment technologies to mitigate those conditions, we will see a significant extension in the average life span.
Then Dr. Richardson made an astounding statement:
“The first American who will live to be 125 has already been born,” she predicted.
After letting this amazing factoid sink in, and since I was at a meeting for hospital and healthcare executives, I began to realize that this eventuality will pose significant ethical and moral challenges for hospitals, Medicare, Social Security, and corporate retirement plans.
In a nation where our political and policy debate is becoming so polarized, how will we be able to address these very difficult issues? The way we conduct the nation’s business today — with vitriolic finger-pointing debates with the next election cycle as the most important outcome — seems so inadequate when you consider the seriousness of the moral and ethical challenges that this type of technological breakthrough will deliver.
Should healthcare leaders be content with our traditional role of adapting to the change or should we emerge as the leaders for this and other critical debates? How will issues like this reshape the leadership competencies of our next generation of healthcare leaders?
© 2014 John Gregory Self
I have always been curious. Some would say nosey. This affliction began at a very young age, around 3, when my family lived in a Houston enclave.
My curiosity manifested itself in a desire to be out and about, to meet people and to find out stuff. This desire led me to roam my street as well as nearby neighborhood streets. To say my exploits were distressing for my mother would be an understatement. She devised all manner of constraints to keep me close to home short of a stake and chain in the backyard. Although this was an era when crime in West University Place was not high on anyone’s list and teenagers still got up at 4:30 AM to deliver newspapers on their bicycles, my mother was justifiably adamant, a 4-year-old should not be roaming free.
Finally, she purchased a hook and eye latch for the screen door on the back porch. There I was allowed to play with my toys with minimal supervision. With this solution, she felt secure that I would not disappear, yet again. However, if you know anything about a hook and eye latch, it is really meant to keep people out, not someone locked inside, even a small boy who could not reach the latch. There were days upon days when I was content to spend hours on that wonderful porch with my toys and books. But one day, when they no longer held my attention, I discovered that a broom was the key to my liberty. I found that pushing up the hook from the bottom would pop the hook from the eye and I would be a free man.
It’s funny how you remember certain events from your early life when others, with more significance, are long lost. Some kids would never have thought of a porch escape, probably fearing the consequences. For me, the draw of finding out what was going on in the neighborhood was far stronger. Perhaps that is what led me to a career in the news business, working in Tyler, Lubbock and later in Houston, which in turn led me to give up the news game — something I really enjoyed — to try something new, working at Hermann Hospital where I became the first director of Life Flight and later, the national marketing/business development manager for the helicopter company. Looking back over my career I realize that I have always been drawn to try new things, including the idea of founding a search firm, even when I had little prior experience in the field. In most cases I have been successful but when I was not, I never thought of those experiences as failures, even when they were extremely painful.
For me, that screened porch in Houston symbolizes stability and safety. Some highly successful executives have made their mark in business because they understood their need for the relative security of salary, benefits, capital and the structure of working for a company, and there are others who toil away inside the company structure who are never fully satisfied. There are those who want to try new things but are understandably afraid to pull the trigger because of financial and personal responsibilities. Roaming the streets is not for everyone.
For early careerists, my message is to be open to smart new ideas, even if those opportunities involve career risks. If you can survive a flop in your 50s, and many have, certainly a setback earlier in a career will not be the end of the world. For people who are mid-careerists, even those moving into the final quarter of their work life and who are unfilled and unhappy, be smart, but know there are some exciting things to learn and people to meet on the next street over.
It is easier to pop open that screen door latch than you imagine.
© 2014 John Gregory Self