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What healthcare leaders need to know now

Diversity matters – Top 25 Women in Healthcare nominations now open

By | October 25 th,  2018 | women in leadership, Modern Healthcare, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, nominations | Add A Comment



Diversity matters. You matter. And your opinion counts.


As you may know, we are longtime sponsors of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare awards for Modern Healthcare. We’re going into our 11th year, actually. The awards celebrate the best leaders in healthcare, and we think they feel especially important and pertinent this year.


Nominations are now open for the 2019 Top 25 Women in Healthcare awards, which will be presented at a gala in Chicago next summer in conjunction with the Women Leaders in Healthcare conference, another event we sponsor for Modern Healthcare.


We’d encourage you and your team to think about a woman leader who merits consideration for this award. Maybe that’s a supervisor, or a colleague, or a friend. If so, nominate them to be one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare. Or, maybe that’s you. Consider asking your supervisor to nominate you. The deadline for nominations is Nov. 22. We have no say in choosing the honorees – the editors at Modern Healthcare choose the winners with no input from us.  But we’d like that decision to be a difficult one, and it could be if you’re included.


Click here for the link to nominations.


The doors are open, and we welcome your participation!


Pamela Sutton-Wallace identifies 3 key traits for CEOs

By | October 18 th,  2018 | Pamela Sutton-Wallace, women in leadership, leadership traits, Lean leadership, Key traits for CEOs, Six Sigma in Healthcare | Add A Comment

Real-world advice: ‘Operational knowledge is essential to casting vision,’ says Pamela Sutton-Wallace



In her four years as the CEO of the University of Virginia Medical Center, Pamela Sutton-Wallace has led the push to transform care delivery with an unwavering focus on quality, patient safety and service.  


Together with Executive Vice President Richard P. Shannon, she introduced Lean principles and implemented new processes and structures to equip the entire team with the skills needed for this transformation.


The medical center conducts a daily 10 a.m. huddle with leaders and managers from across the organization to immediately tackle any issues related to mortalities, infections, patient falls or staff-member injuries that may have occurred in the previous 24 hours.


In addition, she hired additional team members to afford frontline staff more time to focus on and participate in continuous improvement activities, ensuring that the organization was meeting its aggressive performance goals. But she kept it as simple as possible.


“Our organization collects and reports almost 500 quality measures, and we’re a relatively small organization,” she says. “There’s no way an organization can effectively improve all of those measures simultaneously, so I told my team, ‘Let’s focus on those measures with the greatest opportunity for improvement and where we can be most effective.’ ”


Sutton-Wallace sees three qualities as essential for the CEO role. 


#1 Dedicated Focus

In addition to her experience in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, Sutton-Wallace credits her background as an operations leader (for Duke University Hospital) as solid preparation for her role as CEO.


In succession planning, of course, a chief operating officer is is often viewed as the heir apparent when the CEO leaves. In fact, an ErnstYoung study revealed that 54 percent of COOs in rapid-growth markets desired to ascend to the CEO role. EY noted that its research showed many other C-suite leaders “are typically happier to remain where they are.”


“I do think having operational knowledge is essential to casting vision,” Sutton-Wallace says,
“because it’s essential to understand what is required to translate your vision into operational reality. Ideally, you would have seen in an operations role what it takes to accomplish it. Achieving one’s vision requires a deep understanding of organizational culture and how to motivate and inspire those who do the work every day. My operations background has been absolutely crucial in my ability to lead.”


She’s been around healthcare long enough to have seen  ...


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The organizational advantages of authentic leadership

By | October 16 th,  2018 | developing leaders, Tiara Muse, Megan Heim authentic, Chicago Healthcare Executives Forum, leadership traits, authentic leadership | Add A Comment

How can you be strategic about your career and goals while being true to yourself and treating the people around you with empathy and encouragement?


That’s the focus of our latest article, “Authentic Leadership: 4 Ways to Make Your Passion Purposeful,” which is featured in the new publication from the Chicago Healthcare Executives Forum, part of the American College of Healthcare Executives. 



Written by Furst Group’s Director of Research Tiara Muse and Vice President Megan Heim, the article makes a strong case that leadership is based on earned trust – and that the surest path to trust is by allowing yourself to be transparent with your team and letting qualities like empathy and humility shine through. Look out for your team and embrace opportunities for them to grow into their own leadership skills as well.


“Build a strong reputation as a leader with the competence and compassion to develop other leaders,” Muse and Heim write. “Ensure your open-door policy is not just lip service, and genuinely ask for feedback.”


Leaders should also be self-aware, cognizant of their strengths and areas that need development. Mentors can be helpful in this area, as well as discussions with executive recruiters, who are well-networked in the healthcare industry. But don’t overlook the counsel of peers as well.


“The best leaders network strategically,” Muse and Heim say. “Many people look up the organizational leader too often and not across the aisle or down the hall as they think through career development. The executives at the top don’t have all the answers; utilize your peers.” 


When it comes to career development, they add, remain flexible and “maintain the posture of a continuous learner” to prepare yourself for unexpected twists and turns.


“Many aspects of your career may change in the next 5 to 10 years – the pace of innovation and disruption accelerates every year,” they add.


Finally, Muse and Heim counsel executives to be aware that their behavior – including the use of social-media platforms – can build their personal brand and reputation, so treat your career and the people around you with care. “The power of storytelling,” they note, “is a vital skill” for all leaders, not just marketing executives.


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Priming the pipeline for success: Janet Liang outlines the key to creating a strong bench of talent for organizational stability

By | October 12 th,  2018 | Kaiser Permanente, Janet Liang, developing leaders, talent pipeline | Add A Comment

A lot of organizations talk about the importance of talent pipelines in their leadership ranks, but Janet Liang backs up her words with plenty of action.


Liang, President of the Northern California region of Kaiser Permanente-- a region with 4.2 million members, 72,000 employees and 21 hospitals-- has developed several successful leadership initiatives, including a Nurse Scholars Academy, an Emerging Leaders program, a Chief Operating Officers bootcamp and a Finance Leaders Academy.


“I want the organization to have bench strength so we’re never vulnerable in terms of our ability to deliver our plans and build our momentum,” she says. “I believe that stability and continuity in leadership is critical for the organization. We have big aspirations – not just for our patients, but for their families and communities.”


The nature of Kaiser Permanente’s business, which is both provider and payer, makes it difficult at times to find talent that will fit ... 


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Walk the talk -- diversity in action

By | October 10 th,  2018 | Frischmon and Chesley, diversity and talent, LAHRA, Diversity and Inclusion, Diversity action plan | Add A Comment


frishmon-blog  chesley-blog

Frischmon                                              Chesley


In the U.S., 85 percent of CEOs whose organizations have a defined diversity and inclusiveness strategy say it has enhanced business performance. Yet, ethnic and gender-diverse leaders continue to be the least represented in senior-level positions.


Given that paradox, Furst Group principal Tim Frischmon laid out the business case for why companies need to develop a “diversity action plan” in a recent presentation to a human-resources and leadership association in Minnesota.


“The reality is, by 2055 there will not be an ethnic majority group in the U.S.,” Frischmon said. “We need to welcome people’s cultural contributions wherever they come from.”


Frischmon presented alongside Walter Chesley, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Hennepin Healthcare. The two discussed many of the challenges that must be overcome to create an environment in which to live and lead diversity.


Chesley and Hennepin Healthcare recognize the importance of cultivating a diverse, inclusive work environment in delivering excellent care to patients of all cultural backgrounds.


”We value the diversity of our patients and employees. But even more importantly, we recognize the importance of inclusion. Our goal is to cultivate an inclusive environment where all employees feel respected and valued for the unique qualities, perspectives, and experiences they bring to work every day. This inclusive environment results in delivering top-notch care for our patients that are sensitive to their cultural needs,” said Jon L. Pryor, MD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of Hennepin Healthcare.


Minnesota has a rapidly growing population that’s becoming more diverse each year and is now home to more than 400,000 immigrants from all around the world. Ethnically diverse residents make up 19 percent of Minnesota’s total population and that share is predicted to grow to 25 percent by 2035. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau and MN State Demographic Center projections)


There are signs that diversity and inclusion efforts are gaining more traction within the state. In a poll of the attendees, 59 percent said their organizations had less than 10 percent diversity representation in senior leadership and above, but 93 percent said their comfort level in discussing diversity and inclusion was moderate to high. Being able to have an open dialogue about diversity is a great step in the right direction.


Frischmon outlined some best practices for creating a diversity action plan in your organization, including:

  • Adopt a broader definition of diversity to include all types of cultures and backgrounds
  • Promote effective communication to heighten awareness
  • Provide training on cultural sensitivity and recognizing unconscious bias
  • Ensure that incentive metrics for leaders are aligned with diversity and inclusion goals

According to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends Report, 38% of respondents said that “Finding diverse candidates to interview” was the biggest barrier to improving diversity, with “Retaining diverse employees” a close second. As a top healthcare executive recruitment firm, Furst Group strives to remove these barriers, achieving above average gender and ethnic diversity placements for their clients – 46 percent women, 19 percent ethnically diverse.


 Furst Group's diversity placement rates



  “Because we know the value of diversity to an organization and the markets they serve, it is our goal to help our clients gain access to top talent from varied backgrounds and cultures,” says Frischmon.


He went on to add, “Developing and maintaining a diverse workforce requires a multi-faceted strategy focused on recruitment, retention, fellowships, leadership development, promotional advancement and mentoring to make it a reality.”


Diversity should be viewed as a strategic asset. It should be planned, managed, and measured. This is the only way to continue improving in the areas of diversity and inclusion. By knowing what is working and what isn’t, you can adjust your path moving forward and truly “walk the talk” to make strides in effectively enhancing your culture, which will increase productivity and profitability.


For more information on diversity and inclusion, visit our Guide to Diversity and Inclusion.


Leading the change with conviction: At Fresenius, Saurabh Tripathi looks for leaders who are adaptable

By | October 3 rd,  2018 | change agents, Fresenius, Saurabh Tripathi | Add A Comment

tripathiSaurabh Tripathi is a student of leadership.


“I’m an absolutely voracious reader, and I spend a lot of time reading about leaders and how they make decisions,” says Saurabh Tripathi, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Fresenius Kidney Care. Tripathi’s innovations earned him honors from Modern Healthcare as one of their Executives to Watch in the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare program.


“Jack Welch, the former GE chairman, is my icon. When I was at GE Healthcare, he was about to retire, and I was able to participate in a number of the leadership programs where he would speak.”


Tripathi also admires self-made entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Mark Cuban.


“I love Branson’s philosophy that, ‘Once a changemaker, always a changemaker – but only a few swim against the tide,’” Tripathi says. “Mark Cuban started as a bartender then launched his own company. I have learned a lot from his program, ‘Shark Tank,’ in terms of what questions to ask people. He’s very insightful.”


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Many leaders like Tripathi find it important to ask questions as they lead and mentor their teams. Some of this can be formalized in leadership development and personality assessment programs. The best leaders encourage their team to reflect on questions like:


  • What are my strengths and challenges?
  • How can I champion my organization’s mission and vision?
  • How do I help my teammates develop as leaders?
  • How do I advance the goals of the enterprise and not merely my own department?


Leaders as change agents


Although his title reflects his financial expertise, Tripathi (who is a Six Sigma black belt) provides expert operational guidance to Fresenius Kidney Care, where his investment decisions to spend about $500 million in building new dialysis clinics has led to $10 billion in sales. This background, coupled with a desire to make a difference in people’s lives, led him to leave his path as an electrical engineer and return to school to earn an MBA.


“As an organization, the number one thing we have to keep in mind is our patients,” he says. “We want good clinical outcomes in a cost-efficient manner for our patients. That’s what we try to do. My message to our people is that if we do the right thing for the patient, the rest will fall into place. And that is working for us.”


The leader must be a sound change agent, says Tripathi, considering the wave of mergers and acquisitions that has been reshaping the health world, including his own company.


In terms of recruiting and retaining talent, he says executives need to be adaptable. “When I look for new leaders, I find that people who embrace change are the ones who are most successful in a new environment.”


Leadership consultants agree that adaptability is a key litmus test for executives. Indeed, some would argue that adaptability is one of the few competitive advantages that exist in the marketplace anymore. Is your organization streamlined, nimble and ready to embrace change, or is it more difficult to turn and pivot?


Focusing the leadership team


In selecting his own leadership team, Tripathi is purposeful and detail-oriented, as one might expect from a former engineer.


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“The first thing I look for is domain expertise and perspective,” he says. “I look not just for functional leadership but for good business partners. We need to be able to go to the CEO with financial recommendations and understand how and why we are going to finance a business deal.”


The second element, he says, is an intangible that is crucial: passion.


“If people have passion and purpose, they are very easy to engage, because they believe in the mission. If a true leader is engaged, it is amazing what an organization can do.”


Alignment and cohesion on a leadership team can be challenging in healthcare, where opportunity is often plentiful for leaders and thus there is a steady stream of change. Services like executive team performance and executive installation help organizations stay focused and acclimate new leaders to their peers.


It’s also important to manage up to your supervisor, Tripathi says.


“The number one thing is building a relationship of trust,” he says. “Once we establish that bridge of trust, and your supervisor can use you as a sounding board, that relationship should work very well. That’s what I coach my people to do as quickly as possible.”




Tripathi a ‘relentless leader’ who nurtures and advocates for his teams


Bill Valle, the CEO of Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), explains the impact that Tripathi has made on Fresenius Kidney Care’s finances – and its team members.


Q: In the rapidly changing healthcare climate, what are the key traits needed in today’s leaders? How does Saurabh embody that?


A: In today’s ever-changing healthcare environment, leaders need to be transformative—they need to re-envision and reshape the way things are done. Saurabh was a key player in the charge to reimagine the way we deliver dialysis to our existing patients and those who will undergo dialysis in the future, advancing the adoption of home dialysis.


By making bold moves to redefine the current model of life-sustaining dialysis delivery, Saurabh’s work will enable FMCNA to dramatically and positively change the face of the dialysis treatment landscape for many years to come. It’s impossible to measure the positive impact this may have for the patient population and the healthcare industry – suffice to say, it could be transformative.


It’s imperative to never lose sight of who you are working for. In our case, that’s always the patient. With so many shifts in the healthcare space, it’s easy to get mired in policy, regulation and numbers. But, behind each of those numbers is a patient and a family, and our thoughts and actions need to always be on the patient. Saurabh is a relentless leader, nurturing his teams and advocating for them to understand why their day-to-day work is so important to our patients’ lives. He takes every step possible to understand our patients, their struggles and their needs, and in doing so, he is instilling that patient-first mindset among his teams. 

Q: What is necessary to ensure that diversity in leadership is a best practice in healthcare organizations? What has worked for your organization?


A: Recognizing the importance of and taking action toward having the best and the brightest people in leadership positions in healthcare organizations is something that has to come from the top. It needs to be driven by organizations’ boards and CEOs – and embraced by fellow leadership. In my brief time as CEO of FMCNA, this is something I have focused on. We as a company are working to become more diverse overall so we can benefit from different points of view and experiences. Saurabh has been a great advocate in these efforts.  



EXECUTIVE’S TOOLKIT: Encouraging diverse talent


Saurabh Tripathi says he has been fortunate to have not experienced discrimination throughout his career, but he knows many executives who have.


That is why he is intentional about coaching and mentoring younger colleagues to encourage ethnically and gender-diverse executives to aspire to higher roles in his organization.


“One thing I’ve noticed,” he says, “is that minority populations may not be as willing to raise their hand and say, ‘I’m ready for the next role.’ There is a tendency to think, ‘I am just going to put my head down and work hard.’”


“So, I am coaching them to let the organization know they are ready for the next opportunity. Obviously, there is a balance and you have to make sure you are performing well in your current role. But broadcast your brand and network so it is easier for the organization to notice you and promote you.”


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Healthcare’s volatility gives way to innovative leadership

By | September 25 th,  2018 | Beverly Malone, clinical leadership, organizational power | Add A Comment

Beverly Malone strengthens her leaders by empowering them


malone-2018Today, the world of healthcare is imbued with a nonstop barrage of change, and Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League for Nursing, says she thinks leaders should get excited about that.


“Yes, times are volatile,” she says, “but, as a leader, you were born for times like these. It’s not just ‘one potato, two potato’ anymore. When you can bring folks together and reassure them they’re in the right place at the right time doing the right things, it doesn’t get much better than that.”


Malone has served as dean of North Carolina A&T, president of the American Nurses Association, and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing in Great Britain, where she oversaw all nursing in the U.K. She says leadership isn’t easy but is incredibly rewarding.


“When you are a leader, there are times when there is a lot to carry,” she says. “Sometimes, you have to hold the boundaries of the organization in your mind and heart. “


Strengthening leadership teams


Collaboration in leadership is the key, adds Malone, who earned a PhD in clinical psychology.


“I believe in situational leadership,” she says. “It’s like a dance. There are times for me to step out front and lead, and there are times for me to step back and let someone else lead.”


That philosophy helps Malone select, focus and engage her leadership team.


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“Selection is about understanding what you already have, and what are the gaps on your leadership team,” she says.  “I look at it as, ‘I’ve got this dream, and I need expertise in this certain area. Let me find this person and try my best to move out of the way.’ I want them to help build the culture. Some level of trust on my part is critically important.”


The need to create alignment on a leadership team is universal. Many leaders utilize personality assessments with their direct reports to better understand the dynamics that occur on their teams, and to look for ways to address the gaps that Malone speaks about.


With a lot of turnover in the executive ranks of healthcare, the need to address executive team performance is urgent to keep leadership teams rowing in the right direction. Behavioral assessments and the work of organizational psychologists can help CEOs keep their C-suite on track.


Situational leadership is a delicate balance that takes an extremely intuitive leader to execute. Many factors play a role, including:

  • Experience and preparation of the team member(s) in this type of situation or achieving a certain outcome
  • Level of support given at any point throughout the execution of a project or initiative – this can wax and wane depending on several factors both internal to the team and organization, as well as external influences such as stakeholders and the community
  • Amount of direct involvement from the leader in the actual execution

This type of leadership can allow teams to become stronger as a whole, but leaders, such as Malone, must be adaptable and in tune with not only the inner workings and talents of their team members, but also the nuance of the situation at hand and the possible challenges posed from stakeholders.


Empowering your direct reports


Malone says delegation, while it is a basic building block in leadership, is an important component of trust at all levels of an organization.


“I think there’s some level of authority that each person has to have in order to feel good about their work. If they don’t feel authorized, and subsequently have an inability to get things done, then I have not succeeded as a CEO. That’s really a huge part of what we do at the NLN. I’m not the only who does the visioning and dreaming.”


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To delegate and mentor as a CEO, one must understand the types of organizational power (first outlined by Raven and French in 1959) and use them carefully, she says. They are:

  • Informational or expert power: Knowledge.
  • Legitimate power: Authority in a hierarchy or earned authority, such as nursing or physician license.
  • Charismatic or referent power: Power based on personal traits and how others view you.
  • Reward power: Power given to a person. In the workplace, this might be authority over a project, promotion or a raise.
  • Coercive power: The opposite of reward power. The power to take away or withhold rewards.
  • Extended power: Mentoring.


To build high-functioning leaders, extended power is an underestimated force in an organization. Some teams falter because there is so much turnover in healthcare’s executive ranks. Extended power builds the pipeline of talent, aids executive succession and improves the retention of high-performing leaders.


Malone puts it this way. “As the CEO, I can’t know or do it all. I want my team to be self-authorized.”


Leadership for clinicians


Self-authorization is something all nurses do every day the moment they step into a patient’s room, Malone says, and that trains their leadership abilities. If a nurse aspires to become a chief executive officer or a chief nursing officer, that self-authorization, along with humility, will serve them well.


“Our values here at the NLN describe ‘excellence’ as co-creating and implementing transformative strategies with daring ingenuity,” Malone says. “But you don’t do anything by yourself. If you can put together a team that will create those strategies with you, then you’ve got something.


“As a leader, every now and then, you will fall off a cliff. Falling is OK. It’s getting up that’s important. And, if you have that transformative team around you, they can help you get up.”


By allowing your team to stretch their leadership “muscle” not only in calm waters, but also within the eye of the storm you will see what they are capable of, and you might just be surprised at the innovation that is born from such practice. 


EXECUTIVE’S TOOLKIT: Mentoring is essential in the board room too


Organizational dynamics come into play at the board level just as much as the rest of the organization, says Malone, who has served on many boards over the years.


“Board work is really group work at its best,” she says. “You have to decide what the components of governance will be for your organization. Some of it is political, some of it is fiduciary, and some of it is administrative.”


One of the secrets to developing a strong board, says Malone, is peer mentoring.


“Onboarding for board members is an understanding and appreciation for why they’re there,” she says. “What helps is to have a partner, someone who works with them from before the election and makes sure they have all the information they need on governance policies, especially conflict-of-interest policies. Having a mentor is extremely important for a new board member and is essential for their success.”


Rumay Alexander, NLN board president and chief diversity officer/associate vice chancellor for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says Malone’s expertise inspires confidence in the board members.


“Today’s leaders require the ability to be nimble, resilient, read the trends of change/ trends even before complete, be strategic, innovative, positive and caring,” Alexander says. “Being a leader who happens to be a woman and African-American leading the oldest nursing organization in the country has tremendous challenges. Few would be up to this task but Beverly Malone possesses what it takes to be pre-eminent.”


The “group work” that Malone highlights is something Alexander has witnessed often.


“A hallmark of Bev’s leadership traits is to do right rather than be right so she consistently works to preserve the dignity of others.  Her ability to not only hear but listen and understand multiple perspectives is remarkable.”  


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Transitioning to CEO? Self-awareness is Vital

By | September 20 th,  2018 | Sachin Jain, CareMore Health System, CEO | Add A Comment

jain-2018Sachin Jain develops his team to make his own leadership take root


When we last chatted with Sachin Jain, he was transitioning from his role as chief medical officer of CareMore Health System, a subsidiary of Anthem, to become president and CEO of the company.


So, what is his new role like, and what observations does he have that might help other new CEOs just stepping into the job?


“As the chief medical officer, I had responsibility for more than half the organization,” he says. “But when you’re the leader of last resort, the day never actually starts or ends. You’re just ‘on’ all the time.”


Jain says the new role has encouraged him to develop his leadership team and learn to delegate, and to keep in check his tendency to try to do too much.


“I’m actually creating boundaries for myself, so I don’t burn out,” he says. “The other piece of it has been getting to the place where my team is making decisions, not just me. I love to be involved in every single detail, but there are times when you have to pull back. I’m learning how to telescope in and out as needed.”


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In leadership development, the art of delegation is an undervalued skill, but one that can be taught. Personality assessments often shine a light on this. Some leaders feel they are too busy to delegate or that the quality of the work will be lacking if they don’t address it themselves. Jain’s assessment of his own journey on this path is critical because it not only took weight off his own shoulders but allowed his team to grow in new leadership roles.


The value of physician leadership


CareMore, which was founded by a physician, just reached its 25th anniversary. It has established a reputation for doing things differently as it transitions from treating primarily a Medicare population to a wider group of patients. It was the first to use taxis, Uber and Lyft to ensure patients made it to their appointments – it saved money in the long run. It bought a refrigerator for a diabetic patient who was previously unable to store insulin. And CareMore just established a chief togetherness officer to combat what it calls an epidemic of loneliness among seniors that has adverse effects on health outcomes.


Jain, a much-honored, Harvard-trained physician himself, believes physicians and nurses are more in demand as physician leaders and organizational executives today because health systems and insurers need to have a “clinical soul” to be most effective. “The secret sauce of any great clinical organization is the people. They have to have a high sense of efficacy. Absent that, it’s difficult to deliver high quality care.”


Clinicians can sometimes be at a disadvantage when they first step into leadership because their executive peers who are career administrators have in many cases been nurtured and developed as leaders since their formal education ended. That’s where accelerated physician executive development can help to bring clinicians up to speeds on an intensive basis.


Jain says universities are also helping in this regard.


“I think the reasons that physicians are finding themselves more in demand as leaders is twofold. First, a growing number of physicians are being cross-trained, and more medical schools are offering a dual MD-MBA program,” he says.


“Second, the thing that organizations need most is that clinical soul. You need people willing to trade off short-term profits for doing what’s right for patients. By doing that, you’ll have better outcomes for the communities we serve and, in the long run, an even better financial outcome.”


4 key qualities for leaders


With his clinical credentials and his experience as an executive, Jain and his team have developed four imperatives for leaders at CareMore:

  • “Inspire daily. Be inspirational to your people.”
  • “Be willing to do and say hard things. I think that’s a muscle we all develop over time.”
  • “Learn constantly. We’re all evolving as leaders and people.”
  • “Teach your people constantly as well. When I think about leading people, that’s absolutely critical.”


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Vision and mission statements create alignment on leadership teams and enhance executive team performance. The most progressive organizations find great value in developing their own goals for how they can function optimally. But less formal declarations can be essential as well for building internal engagement, like Jain’s lift of key qualities for leaders.


“The reality,” he says, “is that people want to stretch and more in their day-to-day work. They want to be trusted to lead and trusted to develop their best.”


Executive’s toolkit: The number one mindset that leaders need today


These are times of great challenge in healthcare – and great opportunity as well. That’s why Jain says the most needed skill in today’s leaders is something that isn’t always taught in the MD/MBA programs.


“I think comfort with ambiguity is the number one attribute needed in healthcare organizations today,” he says.


The pace of change in healthcare is making this reverberate in health entities across the U.S. Jain explains why.


“The way many organizations are organized and structured, decisions can take months to make. But the reality is, in today’s atmosphere, your strategy could be obsolete in weeks or months, so you need to be comfortable in that tension.


“Leaders help people understand this.”


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Additional resources:



Experiences build a strong leadership foundation for Jaewon Ryu

By | August 27 th,  2018 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Leadership Development, physician leadership, Geisinger, Jaewon Ryu | Add A Comment



Jaewon Ryu, the executive vice president and chief medical officer for Geisinger Health System, trained as both a physician and a lawyer, but says his greatest leadership development came through experiences like the White House Fellows (WHF) Program, a yearlong, non-partisan education program that places early/mid-career people in high-level cabinet offices and trains them for leadership and public service.


“Whether training or working as an attorney or a physician, nowhere in that process do you really learn leadership,” says Ryu, a native of suburban Chicago. “You pick up some skills along the way through your training and work, but the WHF Program was a wonderful way to immerse in leadership development – seeing how decisions are made within complex organizations, being able to hear from great leaders, and taking on projects to apply these learnings.”


Ryu’s description is apt. Many healthcare executives, including clinical leaders, might believe that taking a seminar or getting a few sessions of executive coaching fortifies them for the work of leadership. But trained, focused work in leadership development is best accomplished with trained facilitators and convened as part of a thoughtful program within a team, allowing a leadership group to find alignment and cohesion. ...


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Decisive leadership: Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen sees the ER as a valuable training ground for physician leaders

By | August 13 th,  2018 | Top 25 Minority Executives, women leaders, physician leadership, Leana Wen | Add A Comment

WenThe number of physicians and nurses transforming into administrative leaders capable of running major organizations is growing rapidly.


In the age of value-based care, organizations are leaning on clinicians to lean in to leadership. This opens new vistas for physicians and nurses, but health systems and insurers must do their homework. A physician who heads his or her own practice may have valuable leadership skills, but leading, say, a staff of 12 is different from overseeing a $2 billion budget and ensuring a board and a C-suite are in sync with your vision.


One such physician who has made the jump is Leana Wen, MD, the Baltimore City Health Commissioner, who leads a staff of 1,000 employees. Since being named to the role in December 2014, Wen has shown a predilection for taking decisive action, perhaps unsurprising as someone trained as an emergency room physician:

  • She led the creation of Vision for Baltimore, which provides free eye exams and glasses to children in grades K-8 in all Baltimore City public schools. She created a partnership with the schools, Johns Hopkins, the glasses manufacturer Warby Parker, and a national nonprofit, Vision to Learn, to make it happen. “That’s an example of directly translating policy into action,” she says.
  • Wen was a pioneer as a public-health leader in issuing a standing prescription for all Baltimore residents to obtain and administer naloxone, the antidote that can save a person’s life in the event of an opioid overdose. “Since then, residents have saved the lives of more than 2,500 fellow residents in the last two and a half years,” she says.
  • She supported the expansion of a program called Safe Streets, which calls upon former felons to intercede and help defuse tense situations in Baltimore. She also employs people who are in recovery from addiction, others who are living with HIV, and still others who learned about lead poisoning from home visits from the health department and now are outreach workers themselves. “It is my obligation as a leader to ensure a workplace of diversity, equity and respect, and it’s my privilege to work with those who are using their lived experience to help lift up others in similar circumstances,” Wen says.

Decisive leadership is at a premium these days. Writing in Forbes, leadership expert Sunnie Giles points out that the increasingly complex world in which we live can be paralyzing for leaders. Those who can adapt, like Wen, and use the complexity as a positive catalyst for their team are poised for success.


Decisive leaders should:

  • Accurately define the challenge – gathering as much information as possible in a short period of time from a number of reliable sources, being sure to gain a better holistic picture from all sides of the issue
  • Encourage constructive discourse surrounding the challenge and possible solutions and alternatives
  • Act quickly to set a course of action
  • Support the execution of that action plan by breaking down hurdles and providing additional direction as needed

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The ER as a leadership crucible


Wen’s transition from physician to leader had some elements of a baptism by fire. She was greeted with a measles outbreak erupting at the same time as several possible Ebola cases. Three months after she became health commissioner, Freddie Gray, an unarmed African-American man, died in police custody and riots ensued. In all, 13 pharmacies were burned down or closed. “We had to figure out how to get people food, and how to get seniors their medications because their pharmacies were closed,” Wen says. “We had to figure out how to get people to dialysis, chemotherapy and other life-saving treatments.”


Leading her team, in collaboration with city, state, federal, and private sector partners, she figured it out quickly. So quickly that, a year later, the American Public Health Association honored her with its highest award for local public work, the Milton and Ruth Roemer Award. Achievements have come through steely determination for Wen, who grew up as the child of Chinese political dissidents in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood.


Nonetheless, she graduated from college at 18, became a Rhodes Scholar and studied at Oxford, and completed her medical training at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital before becoming Director of Patient-Centered Care Research and an attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Wen sees three direct correlations between her ER work and her leadership role now.


“Working in the emergency department is all about doing what you can right now,” she says. “That bias to action is the same bias that is necessary in public health where there are so many urgent matters that demand our attention.”


The second lesson is “assisting those who are most vulnerable,” she says. The naloxone prescription that has saved so many people from opioid deaths is one example of this, as is providing something as basic as glasses to children who are in need.


Finally, Wen says she learned the importance of speaking up. “In the ER setting, you can never wait to speak up,” she notes. “If there’s something that you suspect is wrong, you need to speak up right now. And that directly translates into the workplace. There are many issues we need to speak up on right now, including issues of discrimination and harassment, health as a human right, the cost of prescription drugs, and evidence-based, science-based programs like teen pregnancy prevention.”


Even for those not in public health or policy-oriented roles, clinicians can sometimes underestimate the power of their voice in the age of patient-centered care. While it is true that healthcare administrators often have years of mentoring and on-the-job training for executive roles, physicians can be prepared for new opportunities through accelerated physician leadership training.

This type of training allows physicians to gain valuable skills and insights into leadership principles that challenge their core training. By working through real world scenarios, physicians can begin applying these principles right away. In our experience, many notice impactful outcomes within weeks with this type of leadership development and support.


The goal is to bring the physician from thinking in terms of their solitary influence on the goal to shift them into leading an enterprise, which takes a much broader perspective. An accelerated physician leadership training uses three phases:


Coaching and mentoring – which moves them through the leading self to leading others


Collaboration and change management – which transitions them into leading the business


Driving systemic change – which allows them to lead the enterprise

It’s no easy task to work through these phases, especially without the proper guidance. The accelerated nature of these programs helps physicians gain in months and years what may have been elusive in that solitary mindset within which they were trained to operate.   


Diverse voices matter at the top


As an immigrant, Wen experienced vivid episodes that crystallized for her the importance of speaking up.


Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Wen saw a neighbor die from an asthma attack; his grandmother was too afraid to call an ambulance because of their family’s immigration status. And the #MeToo groundswell in the last year refreshed Wen’s memory of watching her mother come home from a job at a video store sobbing because of an unnamed incident that occurred with her physically and verbally abusive boss.


“I have always thought from that time, that if I’m ever in a position of leadership where I can do something about these things, I need to speak up for her and for so many women who have suffered in silence.”


Wen has done just that. She’s proud to have recruited a diverse leadership team. Her Chief of Staff and all three of her deputies are women. She actively recruits from the communities the Health Department serves.


Commitment to diversity is a powerful engine to create organizations that are more profitable and thoughtful as they face the business world externally, and catalysts for employee engagement and leadership development internally. Leaders at the top of an organization should not underestimate the power they have to recalibrate an organization’s perspective, because many challenges remain, something Wen knows personally.


 “As a minority and a female, I have faced entrenched racism and sexism,” she says.


Some are mundane – patients requesting to see the “real” doctor, or CEOs calling her by her first name while addressing her male counterparts by their titles. Some are overt – “at one event, I was introduced as a ‘cute little thing’ and openly questioned on how a female person of color can lead 1,000 people.”


How to overcome that?


“We must foster a culture of diversity, inclusion and equity,” Wen says. “The key to doing that is for boards and management teams to have diverse leadership. We cannot expect for others to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.”


EXECUTIVE’S TOOLKIT: Strategies for physicians moving into leadership roles


Looking back, Wen sees several lessons that can help her fellow doctors if they choose to become physician executives leading the entire enterprise:

  • “Be intentional as you consider your move. Working clinically gives you many leadership skills. Channel these skills into leading on a different level.”
  • “Find multiple mentors from within and outside your organization who can help guide you and problem-solve. Gain management experience.”
  • And, finally: “Never forget why it is that you are here: to serve our most vulnerable individuals during their time of need.”

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