11 health system CEOs name their greatest talent outside of the C-suite

Hospital and health system CEOs are charged with a myriad of responsibilities, many of which keep them tied to their desks and phones throughout the day. But these leaders possess a diverse range of skills outside of the C-suite doors, too.

In our health system CEO "Corner Office" series, we ask leaders to describe their greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite. Here is what 11 respondents said.

1. David T. Feinberg, MD, President and CEO of Geisinger Health System (Danville, Pa.). "I don't think I have many skills within the C-suite. I'm just one of 30,000 people that make up Geisinger Health System. We get up every day, night, holiday and every weekend to be part of the healing team. When people ask me about work-life balance, I say my work is my life and my life is my work, and I couldn't be happier. There is a real blurring of the lines there. That may seem like the wrong answer to today's generation, but for me, it's very comfortable."

2. William P. Thompson, President and CEO of SSM Health (St. Louis)."It's probably an attribute that helps me both inside and outside the C-suite, and that is curiosity. I'm just naturally curious about how things work, whether it's how we deliver care on a patient unit or how an electro-diesel locomotive works. The internet, along with sites like Google and Wikipedia, is a marvelous invention that gives us the ability to get our questions answered and provides resources for delving more deeply into a topic. The downside of being curious is I tend to ask a lot of questions, which can drive some people a bit crazy."

3. Michael J. Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.). "In many ways that is probably up to others to decide, but I think I like to embrace new ideas from other places and industries. I think I have developed good relationships with many leaders in all industries, and I would like to think I'm a good outside representative for the organization."

4. Darlene Stromstad, President and CEO of Waterbury (Conn.) Hospital and the Greater Waterbury Health Network."One of the things I enjoy the most outside of the C-suite is being engaged and involved in the community as a volunteer. I serve on boards and I'm very active in several civic organizations. I enjoy being a part of a myriad of things that help strengthen the community. That's maybe more passion than skill."

5. John Chessare, MD, President and CEO of Greater Baltimore Medical Center HealthCare System. "I'm a people person. I've also been a clinician, which I think is very helpful because I can talk to other doctors from a place of shared experience. I have phenomenal non-clinical colleagues as well, but doctors appreciate it when a leader has the deep process knowledge of the work they do. I know what it's like to take care of a sick child in the middle of the night and not having everything I need to do it."

6. Gary S. Kaplan, MD, Chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System (Seattle). "I believe this is applicable in the C-suite, but I would say I am an optimistic extrovert who derives tremendous energy from interacting with people. Maybe that skill began to develop working in the hardware store beginning at age five, but I love people, engaging in dialogue — including challenging conversations, debate and discussions that bring in diverse opinions. I'm good at synthesizing, guiding others to find common ground and translate that into action, whether in my personal life dealing with friends and family or at work. It's something I've worked hard to be good at."

7. Mike Murphy, CEO of Sharp HealthCare (San Diego). "I think others would be the better judge of that. But what's most important to me is trying to be a great son, brother, father and husband — taking care of my family. I hope I do a good job of that, and that's priority No. 1. I'd say a top skill set of mine is being a good listener, which allows me to interact and get along with people. It helps me understand other peoples' points of view, even if they are not aligned with mine."

8. Nancy Howell Agee, President and CEO of Carilion Clinic (Roanoke, Va.). "I'm not a cook, but I'm learning to be one. However, I am a bookworm and a speed reader. I read a lot of books related to healthcare and leadership, but I like biographies, historical novels and the occasional beach read as well. I'm also interested in management books, and someone just sent me an interesting book about mindfulness and compassion."

9. John Jay Shannon, MD, CEO of Cook County Health & Hospitals System (Chicago)."I do a great Elvis imitation. [Laughter.] No, just joking. I have to tell you, one of the things my wife has been unimpressed with is how much time I have left over at the end of the work day.

I can compete with just about anyone when it comes to parking it on a beach and reading and taking it easy. I am not a person who, when not at work, is training for an Ironman or composing a symphony. I'm good at unplugging and disconnecting when not at work."

10. Kim Cripe, President and CEO of Children's Hospital of Orange County (Orange, Calif.). "I think this applies both inside and outside of the C-suite, but my biggest talent or asset is having an enormous sense of curiosity and drive. I love to learn, innovate, read and find better ways to do things at work and home. I have an ability to look ahead and see a different future, and I'm a good active listener."

11. Elizabeth Concordia, President and CEO of UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.)."I can't say this is a skill, but I'm most proud that I have three great kids and an amazing husband. In my office I have a five-foot by five-foot board covered with pictures of my family. I think it's really important for people to recognize that work-life balance is important and being a mom is something to be proud of."

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