4 Leadership Lessons From One of Healthcare's Most Powerful Women

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took her position in 2009 after serving as governor of Kansas for six years. In a recent Forbes article, "the most powerful woman in healthcare" shared some lessons she's learned throughout her career and tips for other leaders to strike a balance between work and their personal lives, to better lead a team and to make transitions from one job to the next.  

1. No matter how large the role, reporting to a boss can make things challenging. When Ms. Sebelius transitioned from governor to HHS secretary, she said the toughest part and biggest surprise was that she had a boss again. She had to coordinate strategies with President Barack Obama and the White House, a chain of command unlike what she was accustomed to as governor. Ms. Sebelius said ensuring HHS was on the same page with the White House and that outreach messages were coordinated presented one of the largest learning curves, according to the report.

2. Resist the urge to micromanage. Ms. Sebelius told Forbes she learned to stop micromanaging others while serving as governor, but this has proved "incredibly important" as HHS secretary. What are some other skills she has strengthened throughout her HHS tenure? The willingness to take risks, the belief you can assemble a team and the ability to make things work even if it hasn't been seen before — all have proved crucial since her appointment.

3. Find a support system that works for you. Ms. Sebelius has her own definition for a support system. She credits her spouse, Gary Sebelius, a magistrate judge in Kansas, for supporting her in a way that helps her serve as a better leader. "[By] supportive, I mean someone who doesn't have a definite goal for you that may or may not fit in with your goal, but wants you to succeed and be happy," she told Forbes.

4. Know when to call it a day. Another essential skill is the ability to end the work day consciously — something that proves difficult for many executives in the age of smartphones. "[Finding] that way to put yourself at peace and being able to say, 'I've done enough for today. I'm going to go to sleep. I'm going to get up tomorrow morning and start all over again' is essential,'" she said in the Forbes report. Otherwise, leaders may very well drive themselves crazy through a constant attachment to the pressures of their jobs.

More Articles on Leadership Lessons:

First Things First: Treat Employees Right
Becoming a Virtuous Healthcare Organization: It Starts With Avoiding "Blamestorming"
What Healthcare Leaders Can Learn From Lincoln

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