Health system C-suites crave 'smart risk takers' to lead next

Health system executives are making strategic pivots in response to increasing costs, staffing shortages, emerging technology, competition for patients and a trend toward consumerism.

These challenges, along with thinning margins and access to care issues, require creative problem solving and leaders willing to try new things. Many top executives are engaged in deeper partnerships with community organizations, vendors and even competitors to bring more efficient and effective care to their patient populations. The imperative to transform healthcare delivery will continue in the near future, and leadership teams are identifying the individuals uniquely suited for the task.

"The most essential leaders are bold, innovative and smart risk takers," said Sheri DeShazo, RN, president of Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. "I find a team of pioneering leaders to appreciate that today's norm was yesterday's disruptive discovery and they move forward to accomplish our goals and inclusively bring others with them."

Susmita Pati, MD, chief of primary care pediatrics and chief medical program advisor of The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University, said the system's No. 1 priority is fostering a high performance culture where leaders can attract, develop, recognize and retain an exceptional workforce.

"Stony Brook Medicine needs leaders who encourage people to share ideas, take calculated risks and collaborate," said Dr. Pati. "Leaders who embrace innovation and continuous improvement will advance Stony Brook Meidcine's ability to respond to industry changes, drive innovation and create unique problem-solving."

Vi-Anne Antrum, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Greensboro, N.C.-based Cone Health, sees similar advantages for innovative thinking and risk taking for the next generation of transformational leaders. With the accelerated change in the industry today, leaders who can build trust with their teams, make people feel heard and collaborate with partners and communities will thrive, she said.

"We need people who embrace technology and are willing to take risks, try new things, and invent new processes," said Ms. Antrum. She went on to emphasize adaptability and flexibility as core traits. "We need leaders who are able to embrace the pace of change and the velocity at which things are occurring. Regardless of the subject matter expertise and functional acumen, these skills are universally needed in every leadership role."

Bill Moice, MD, PhD, president and CEO Of Mayo Clinic Laboratories in Rochester, Minn., prizes a culture of servant leadership where leaders approach their work with humility and openness to share in the goal of improving patient care. Mayo is one of the most innovative systems in the nation, and to stay on the cutting edge Dr. Moice's team combines servant leadership that builds trust within the teams to then try new things that will move the industry forward.

"Transparency and effective communications are core competencies for leaders in the organization," said Dr. Moice. "Leadership is about taking others with you and learning from them along the journey. Without trust in leadership, teams will struggle to pivot or undertake calculated risks, underscoring the significance of open communications."

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