What healthcare leaders need to know now


Who’s the best CEO, Ms. Inside or Ms. Outside? Actually, that may not be the right question

By | April 8th, 2011 | Blog | 3 Comments


Barch: Self-awareness is critical for leaders.

BNET’s Sean Silverthorne has an intriguing post on a new study called “What Do CEOs Do?”, spearheaded by Harvard researcher Rafaella Sadun. The study found that CEOs who spent the majority of their time with people inside the company were arguably more successful than top execs who dealt more with outsiders. The result, they say, is better profits, stronger governance and more productivity.


“The patterns we observe,” researchers said, “are consistent with the hypothesis that time spent with outsiders is on average less beneficial to the firm and more beneficial to the CEO.”


Furst Group president Sherrie Barch finds that a bit simplistic.


“Organizations go through seasons,” she says. “If you’re in a growth mode, for example, it might be more beneficial to concentrate on reaching outward to drive sales.”


Similarly, “if you need to build efficiency and quality into your organization, or increase camaraderie and trust, you’ll need internal focus,” she added.


What’s critical for the CEO in all of this, Barch says, is self-awareness.


“If my default is to be Mr. Outside, then I’m going to make sure I balance that by having key people on my leadership team who are more focused on the inside.”


  • April 27th, 2011

    One of the most important characteristics of a high-level executive is flexibility and the ability to recognize when it’s time to change strategy and focus. There are times that being “outside” is clearly a top priority, and times when one must dive more deeply inside one’s organization in order to stabilize it, reorganize, or deal with a critical problem.

  • April 27th, 2011

    I agree with your statements Georganne. I find that many times the option to stay outside is driven by a “silver bullet” mentality…i.e. by focusing outside there might be a magic potion to solve our problems. Admittedly, spending time with outsiders is good for the ego and at times refreshing. However, the hallmark of a strong leader is to look in the mirror and have the ‘guts’ to tackle the issues one step at a time. To be solely focused inside on the other hand dampens one‚Äôs ability to see the possibilities. The “season” is a great analogy. There is not a right or wrong answer. Being adaptable is the key.

  • Mickey Herbert
    April 27th, 2011

    In today’s hectic work environment, with health care reform front and center as such a pivotal issue, it is imperative that the health care CEO be fully engaged in such external areas as governmental affairs, public affairs, producer and provider relations, and employer relations. Morover, today’s CEO should be engaged in community leadershop positions with business organizations such as the local chambers of commerce. All of these activities speak to the CEO being Ms. Outside. However, Sherri is right that companies go through “seasons”, and that if you’re going to be the outside leader, you need to assure that you have a very competent chief operating officer working for you.

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