12 CEOs and their favorite piece of advice

Some healthcare CEOs dole out their own advice based on their experiences in the industry, while others repeat words of wisdom they first heard from mentors, professional coaches, colleagues, parents or professors.

Here are 12 pieces of advice hospital and health system CEOs shared with Becker's Hospital Review.

Dave Blom
President and CEO of OhioHealth (Columbus) 

"Don't just manage your employees. Connect with them as people. It's one thing to have your employee's hands and minds, but it's another level entirely to have their hearts as well. That's where loyalty and commitment comes from and that makes all the difference." 

Kevin Brown
President and CEO of Piedmont Healthcare (Atlanta)

"Great leaders listen more than they talk and influence more than they dictate."

Margo Karsten, PhD
CEO of Cheyenne (Wyo.) Regional Medical Center and Cheyenne Regional Medical Group

"My best advice for being a CEO was, 'Just be you, listen, lead with humility and be authentic. Keep your focus on the patients, families and community you serve. Lastly, remember where you came from and listen to the frontline staff.'

Over the past 20 years, I stayed connected to a dear friend, Jim Hinton, who has always been helpful and insightful. In addition, [professional coaches] Beverly Charles and Betty Vanek have been my coaches and have helped me stay true to my values. I would recommend this role to anyone who desires to make a difference in the lives of many."

John J. (Jack) Lynch III
President and CEO of Main Line Health (Bryn Mawr, Pa.)

"When I was an administrative fellow, Kim Hollon, [who was a vice president in the healthcare industry at the time], told me, 'Don't take the best job…take the job you're the best at.' Often times, people are offered opportunities where the likelihood for success may be low based on the fit of the position. But if you take a job that leverages your natural talents and abilities, you will become natural leader and ultimately experience the greatest success."

Richard P. Miller
President and CEO of Virtua (Marlton, N.J.)

"Do the right thing all the time and always treat people with respect and dignity. Great strategy and process are a byproduct of great people — show me value-driven, smart people, I will show you a great organization!"

Thomas M. Priselac
President and CEO of Cedars-Sinai Health System (Los Angeles)

"When I was in my mid-30s, I had an idea for our staff that I thought was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was frustrated at the time because the idea didn't seem to be moving forward. Then our CEO told me something that always stuck with me: Being right is not enough. I learned that successful leadership is about driving successful and meaningful change. To see the best ideas come to fruition, you've got to enlist the strong endorsement and support of key constituencies. You have to earn their buy-in.

I also learned that timing is important. Even if your strategic idea is a good one, successful implementation depends on internal and external environmental factors that also need to be present. In healthcare and other industries, companies adopt strategies that have been successfully deployed elsewhere in the country, forgetting that healthcare environments are, for the most part, driven by local facts and circumstances.

The potential for this error occurring in today's environment is very high as organizations adapt to the changing healthcare system. One often hears about organizations being late to respond to market conditions, but it can also be true that organizations suffer from running ahead of market conditions. I've learned that we need to be nimble and thoughtful as we navigate."

Tomi Ryba
President and CEO of El Camino Hospital (Mountain View, Calif.)

"During a strategy planning session, the chancellor stood up and said, 'We know the future is ambiguous and complex, but we need to step up and have the audacity to shape the future. That's what good leaders do.' It reminded me of the significance of the lasting impact we can make through our planning efforts to improve health and well-being."

Candice Saunders
President & CEO of WellStar Health System (Marietta, Ga.)

Ms. Saunders received this advice from her first boss, Helen Lombard, CNO at BethesdaMemorialHospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. At that time, Ms. Saunders was the nursing director.

"Healthcare is serious business. We take care of people during the most fragile times in their lives, but it's important to still take time for fun and fellowship."

Warner Thomas
President and CEO of Ochsner Health System (New Orleans)

"My mentor, Thomas E. Wilhelmsen Jr., president and CEO of Nashua-based Southern New Hampshire Health System, which is where I worked before, always talked about the importance of courage — whether that's courage to address tough issues, take on new challenges or try new things. He always said, 'As a great leader you've got to have courage.'

That's something that's always stuck with me. I think frankly was able to help me as I went through things like Hurricane Katrina as COO of Ochsner Health System, because that was a very difficult time when you weren't sure how things were going to play out. And having courage and leading with courage was an important component that I learned from him and has been very important in my career."

Dennis Welsh
President and CEO of Down East Community Hospital (Machias, Maine)

"The patient is the only reason we're in this business. Never lose sight of this."

Michael Wiechart
President and CEO of Capella Healthcare (Franklin, Tenn.)

"From my father, I learned that I should do my job in a way that will make my boss think that hiring me is the best decision they ever made. From my mother, who is a nurse, I learned that those who have their hands on the patients in hospitals are by far the most important staff members. My mom's advice speaks to how I think about the purpose of healthcare, while my dad's advice reflects how I think about the business of healthcare."

Suzanne Woods
President and CEO of Flowers Hospital (Dothan, Ala.)

"My best lesson learned came from Dr. Howard Houser, professor of my Introduction into Healthcare Administration class while getting my MSHA at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1993! He said when faced with an ethical dilemma, considering taking a shortcut, or feeling pressure to do something you know is wrong, ask yourself the following question: 'Would you be comfortable with your decision/action being on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper?' If so, proceed. If not, reconsider your plans.' I apply Dr. Houser's wisdom every day in Dothan, and I am so thankful for him."


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