5 health system CEOs share their best advice

The Corner Office series asks healthcare executives to answer seven questions about their life in and outside the C-suite.

In each interview, CEOs share the piece of advice they remember most clearly. Here are answers collected by Becker's Hospital Review this year.

Odette Bolano, BSN. President and CEO of Saint Alphonsus Health System (Boise, Idaho): To move forward, you must be able to take calculated risk and be willing to fail. Most important lessons in life, and in your professional life, are coming back from a failure and how you choose to respond to that failure. You learn a lot about yourself when you reflect on how you managed a situation, what you learned about yourself and others, but especially about yourself and how it molds you for the next challenge.

Denise Brooks-Williams. Senior Vice President and CEO of Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System's north market: The advice I remember most clearly is from my mother — "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31).  It reminds me that our actions matter to all we encounter. I understand that being a servant leader that cares for all humankind is important. I am respectful and thoughtful in my actions toward others as a result of this advice.  

Joan Coffman. President and CEO of St. Tammany Health System (Covington, La.): My father and two of his brothers owned a True Value Hardware in Metairie, La., where I worked summers in high school. Their active efforts to serve their customers in a genuine and positive way — leading with integrity — was an important lesson that has remained with me throughout my career. Many years later when the store closed, my daddy received a letter from a customer that ended with the following statement, "There are places to go for what you sold, but none for what you gave away." Extraordinary service and positive relationships add value in any industry — particularly healthcare. That is a profound responsibility, and one I am grateful to be a part of and live out each day.

Cynthia Moore-Hardy. President and CEO of Lake Health (Concord Township, Ohio): While growing up, my father shared with me an analogy for life's hardships. He always told us that to make it through life, we sometimes must be like a willow tree — firmly planted, but when the high winds and obstacles occur, the tree bends but doesn't break. As soon as the storm passes, the tree straightens back up and goes on with life. It was his way of saying, 'Do not be afraid of a crisis or challenge, but to weather life's storms by hunkering down, to focus on resolution, be flexible and create new plans, always with an eye on the goal.' 

Jaewon Ryu, MD. President and CEO of Geisinger (Danville, Pa.): A piece of advice that has stuck with me, especially over the past several months during the pandemic, is to embrace change and uncertainty. There is so much uncertainty in healthcare, and especially so with COVID-19. Our team at Geisinger has tackled this pandemic head-on, pivoting when needed, shifting gears along the way and remembering that flexibility is what will help us come out the other side of this. I've never been more proud to be a part of a team, as our Geisinger team has just risen to this occasion in these ways. 

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