Corner Office: New Allina Health CEO's leadership style emphasizes 'serving those who serve'

As Lisa Shannon begins her tenure as CEO of Minneapolis-based Allina Health, she said she is inspired by the organization's culture and is focused on the needs of patients and employees. 

Ms. Shannon assumed the CEO role Jan. 1, replacing Penny Wheeler, MD, who retired from the role at the end of 2021.

Before taking the position, Ms. Shannon served as Allina Health's president and COO. She also previously served as COO and president of health system delivery for Louisville-based KentuckyOne Health. Additionally, she has held leadership roles at OhioHealth in Columbus and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Here, Ms. Shannon answers Becker's Hospital Review's seven "Corner Office" questions.   

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Question: What's one thing that really piqued your interest in healthcare?

Lisa Shannon: I'm a dietitian by training, and I went into dietetics with a personal interest in health and well-being. I started out being interested in preventive medicine yet found my way into a burn and trauma unit, where what really drew me to critical care was the multidisciplinary nature of it and truly equal people with different roles. My early mentors gave me that language — we are truly equal people with different roles, and all voices matter for the care of our patients. And what I found and discovered in my early leadership journey is that by serving those who serve, we can actually have a greater impact on those we serve. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about Minnesota?

LS: The collaborative spirit of Minnesotans, especially among our healthcare colleagues, is something that has impressed and inspired me about living in Minnesota. There is truly a collaborative spirit to listen, learn and innovate how, together, we can best serve our communities. This has been on display throughout the pandemic as we have worked together as a statewide team to ensure that, collectively, we are able to care for all who need it.

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be?

LS: There are hundreds of points of pride for me within this amazing industry. Preventable harm to our workforce and our patients is the one problem that keeps me up at night. The elimination of serious safety events that create emotional or physical harm for our patients, caregivers and support team will always be my top priority.

Q: What is your greatest talent or skill outside of the executive office?

LS: I don't know if I can call it a talent or skill, yet I deeply enjoy gardening. In my home there are about 70, and growing, indoor house plants. It all started with one African Violet gifted to me by a dear physician colleague and mentor. That one plant has led to many, many others and many varieties.  

Q: How do you revitalize yourself? 

LS: I enjoy quiet mornings and am always the first to rise in my home. I meditate and exercise nearly every day, enjoy active time outdoors, listening to podcasts and time with books. First and foremost, I revitalize by spending time with my family at home and traveling.

Q: What's one piece of advice you remember most clearly?

LS: I have many amazing mentors and have carried their advice with me throughout my career. Deeply understanding my strengths and weaknesses and ensuring I surround myself with leaders and teams who fill in the gaps has been a constant journey for me. Focusing on development, first of myself, then of those around me, is advice I will always keep close.   

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at Allina Health so far?

LS: Joining the Allina Health team four and a half years ago was the best move of my career. The achievements are abundant, and none of them can be considered mine. The culture and determination of this great organization and team inspire me daily. Watching our caregivers and support team come together and rise to every challenge (and there have been many) to ensure our availability and service to our communities has left a profound impact on me. Even in the face of significant personal adversity, our teams found new ways to connect, care and communicate with our patients and with each other. Continually strengthening our culture and commitment to high reliability and a relentless focus on the holistic care needs of those we serve and those who serve is what Allina Health has called "whole person care" and our "whole way to better." Ensuring I and those around me never lose sight of why we serve, who we serve, and the need to continually improve and transform how we serve ensures we will be able to care long into the future.

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