4 female execs share advice for future healthcare leaders

Leadership requires a curious mind and a deep understanding of an individual's organization, in addition to authenticity and integrity, according to women leading some of the nation's most prominent health systems. 

Becker's asked female hospital and health system executives what advice they would give to future healthcare leaders. 

Editor's note: Some responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Tracie Morris. Chief People Officer at Corewell Health (Grand Rapids and Southfield, Mich.).

Be curious and open to new experiences; preparation, planning and networking are key to success. True growth comes from stepping out of your comfort zone.

My experiences have taught me to live with curiosity. Living life with a lens of curiosity has often pushed me out of my comfort zone, which ultimately has helped reduce anxiety and improve my general feelings of well-being. Comfort zones can place you in a holding pattern because they don’t challenge us. We need curiosity, uncertainty and growth. These are human needs, and they push us to be our best selves. The ability to move out of our comfort zones in regular, positive ways allows one to strike the right balance between certainty and uncertainty.  

I received my first promotion to lead a team because I demonstrated the ability to push my limits and be more productive, more adaptable and more creative. Through that experience, I was able to coach my team to be curious and learn to work outside of their comfort zones. As you push your personal and professional boundaries, you can adapt to new situations and become better communicators, problem-solvers, decision makers and leaders. You can become invincible.

Maxine Carrington. Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.),

Understand the mission and values of your organization and work to ensure that your focus and efforts are aligned to the mission and values. 

Through practice, get comfortable with sharing your voice and perspectives. Don't be afraid to step out of your "swim lane" to help spur problem solving and innovation.  

Stay curious and commit to your continued growth. Keep reflecting and learning through your experiences which might include reading, podcasts, professional and external service opportunities, presenting at conferences, and formal programs.

Curate an "advisory board," i.e. people you can trust to listen and advise you and make sure you are sitting on someone else's advisory board as well.

Seek feedback and be ready and open to receiving it. Sometimes that feedback might reflect someone's perception of you and not the reality, but don't discount it. Treat it as credible and seek to clarify and manage it.

Cathy Jacobson. President and CEO of Froedtert Health (Milwaukee, Wis.).

The advice I have for future female leaders is to keep your integrity and your word. Earning the trust of your colleagues is key to your success. Work hard and focus on the job you’re doing — not the job you want. Promotions will come your way, and if they don't, leave and find a new opportunity. Take risks and learn from them. Finally, find a life-work balance; you're no good to anyone if all you do is work. And when you're in a meeting, remember to take your seat at the table. You were invited, and you belong there.

Denise Brooks-Williams. Senior Vice President and CEO of Carket Relations at Henry Ford Health (Detroit).

My advice to young female leaders would be to be your authentic self and be fearless in your pursuit of closing the gaps that exist in healthcare. I think that female leaders sometimes might not feel that their voices are heard at some tables, and that they matter. And I think they have skills that sometimes are very unique that can contribute to organizations and communities and have the courage to use them.

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