Championship teams and great leadership teams: 8 concepts they have in common

As we watched the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup and the Golden State Warriors win the NBA Championships, several characteristics central to each team's success translate to the development of strong leadership teams.  

Here are eight aspects of successful championship teams that we believe can also apply to executive teams at hospitals and health systems.  

1. A team needs to retain top leaders. The Blackhawks did a great job signing and retaining its nucleus for the long run. For the past three Stanley Cup wins, including the most recent on Monday, the Blackhawks' nucleus — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marián Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford — has led the way. 

When you look at the very best health systems, whether it is Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, Great Neck, N.Y.-based North Shore-LIJ Health System, San Diego-based Scripps Health, Los Angeles-based Cedars Sinai, Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, etc., they‎ have all done a great job retaining their executive teams — each consisting of multiple well respected leaders in the healthcare industry —for the long run. 

2. You need multiple stars, not one. The Blackhawks, for example, were built around Mr. Toews, Mr. Kane, Mr. Keith, Mr. Hossa, Mr. Sharp and more — not one superstar. Here, we believe that great leadership teams include multiple A to A+ rated players/leaders. A good team can have one A+ player. A great team has multiple great leaders.  ‎

3. Depth in leadership is critical. In addition to having multiple great leaders, great teams also have depth in most key areas. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love injured and unable to compete in the NBA Finals, Lebron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers' "CEO," attempted to carry the team to the championship. Here, even though Mr. James was supported by many players who stepped up in the playoffs, the team needed more depth to compete and win.  

4. Leaders must focus on the team and organization, not just on themselves. Going into game six, Mr. James said at a press conference: "I'm confident because I'm the best player in the world." Indeed, Mr. James is generally regarded as the best player in the league and the "CEO" of the Cavaliers. However, his unabashed lack of modesty may be a reflection of a distorted sense of his value to the team. Although his trumpeting of himself as the key to the team's confidence may be intended to build up his team, it also states that he is supremely important and lessens the perception of their importance. The Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in the game that followed Mr. James' statement.

5. Great health systems are constantly developing multiple leaders. Leaders at hospitals become system leaders and group leaders, and these leaders rise higher. It is important for leaders not to overshadow anyone else and hinder their potential to grow. I saw firsthand Evanston, Ill.-based NorthShore University HealthSystem develop exceptional leader after leader. There, that system was constantly looking to develop leaders in different departments and leaders at different hospitals. This has allowed that system to flourish and handle transitions extremely well.   

6. Great systems build much of their talent organically. Great teams build around talent that joins them early and then combines that with leaders who come in laterally. Lateral hires are critical and sometimes needed to grow or fill gaps, it is very hard to succeed if you don't have a base of great home-grown talent.

Rrecruiting leaders from other organizations can be effective. We are aware of few successful organizations that don't build much of their talent internally.

Organic growth also provides a base of leadership with institutional knowledge. This can allow the group to grow and rebuild without major setbacks.   

7. ‎Great teams make changes and move people out to unleash and develop new talent. Great systems and teams constantly aim to develop junior leaders, and sometimes they must nicely and professionally rotate people out of leadership roles to let others thrive and grow. The NHL and NBA have a salary cap that in part forces this, and hospitals and health systems have budgets that can essentially force this to happen as well.

In essence, when a person has met their ceiling and cannot perform where a system needs them to perform, great systems find ways to professionally move others into those positions. This takes a great deal of discipline and is often not pleasant.  

8. Outstanding teams need players who are stars in various roles. Great basketball teams need scorers, passers, rebounder, players who can hit three-point shots and players who can play defense. Hockey teams need players that can handle different roles.   

This same concept holds true of hospitals. Not everyone can be or needs to be a CEO. But every entity needs great IT people, great strategy people, great service line leadership, great patient care leadership and more. Here, it is critical that people know their role and their strengths and also work together well.

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