7 thoughts on leadership from women in the healthcare industry

In honor of International Women's Day on March 8, Becker's Hospital Review asked women in the healthcare industry to share their insights on leadership.

Here are seven women who offered words of advice for healthcare leaders.

If you'd like to share additional leadership advice, please email Morgan Haefner at mhaefner@beckershealthcare.com or Mackenzie Bean at mbean@beckershealthcare.com.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Nancy Howell Agee, RN, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic (Roanoke, Va.).
"It is important to not shy away from new opportunity — even when something extends past your comfort zone. It's in these situations when you grow the most professionally. If you're looking to explore leadership roles and earn a seat at the table, I'd encourage you to stand up and say, 'I can make a difference.'"

Stephanie Beauton, off shift clinical executive administrator at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Hospital and Northeast Medical Group operations manager for New Haven County.
"Each of us, no matter our gender, age or nationality, bring unique qualities to the table. It is important to get to know your unique identifiers as a person and use those strengths to your benefit. None of us are given directions or a book on how to be successful. We all create our own meaning for it. I live my life trying to make the best out of my own strengths and developing the strengths of those around me. If your presence adds value to others, that impact is a lifelong result."

Ceci Connolly, CEO of Alliance of Community Health Plans, a national organization of 20 health organizations (Washington, D.C.).
"My leadership motto is: 'Think big, start small, act fast.' Add to that: 'Be true to yourself. Be a good listener. Maintain a thick skin. Everything else will follow.'​"

Chrissy Manning, practice administrator in the department of orthopedic surgery at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center (New York City).
"A powerful woman I admire, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said: 'Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.' I try to live by these words. Doctors should be freed up to practice more medicine and less business during the working day, and it's my responsibility to divide responsibilities among my staff to reach this goal. By helping our doctors, I ultimately help patients receive better care — and that's why being a leader in this industry is so rewarding."

Trish O'Keefe, PhD, RN, president of Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center at Atlantic Health System.
"Resiliency, or the art of 'bouncing back,' is the cornerstone on which I've built my professional career. Resiliency taught me strength in times of transition, gave me serenity during times of change and also reminded me to use quieter times to recharge. It is like the analogy of a rubber band — the pinnacle of resilience. It stretches when it needs to, sometimes to nearly the point of breaking, but goes back to a neutral state when not under stress. It's strong, durable, time-tested and something which we have relied on for years."

Sally Poblete, founder and CEO of Wellthie, an e-commerce platform for health plans (New York City).
"In healthcare and technology — where the percentage of women in leadership roles is extraordinarily low — advancing the careers of other females in the industry through mentorship and advocacy has been a very rewarding endeavor. Our younger generation needs to be encouraged to take risks, embrace change, project confidence and get their strong voices heard. And it's imperative we encourage more diversity and provide more opportunities for women to succeed."

Julie Silver, MD, associate professor and associate chair for strategic initiatives in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School (Boston).
"One of the things that I hear from women is that leaning in can be painful and is not always well received. For physicians and other healthcare professionals that have high burnout rates and may already feel demoralized, leaning in might inadvertently cause them more distress. So, I teach women about a strategy that I call 'lean around and up' in which they can leverage their vast networks and get support from unexpected sources to advance in new ways. I always tell them that leaning in can be good and choosing the right times to lean in makes sense. Sometimes, though, leaning around and up will complement the lean in strategy and provide you with more support and less psychological distress."

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