Houston Methodist, NewYork-Presbyterian, Penn Medicine CEOs on being excellent

In the aftermath of the pandemic, hospital and health systems CEOs must navigate more challenges than ever as they steer their organization with a focus on long-term vision and day-to-day operations. That's why it's crucial to have the best leaders possible at the helm.

But, that raises the question: What separates the "excellent" from the "good?"

Here, Becker's asked leaders of top health systems to identify the mindset or practices that separate a good CEO from an excellent one.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Marc Boom, MD. President and CEO of Houston Methodist: Being transparent isn't always easy, but it's always the right thing to do. Transparency is the key to building trust and respect — major building blocks of great teams.

Be the champion and the guardian of your institution's culture. To do this you must be ready to set the example you want others to follow. If you're doing a good job, eventually you'll start following others' examples. That's when you know your culture has taken root.

Lead with passion around the institution's reason for being, which in healthcare is putting patients at the center of everything.

Bring out the best in everyone, creating a cohesive team with an "everyone wins" mentality. If you want to win the World Cup you've got to start with World Cup caliber players, but it is the job of the leader to ensure these highly skilled players perform together as a team.

Steven J. Corwin, MD. President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian (New York City): You have to adapt, and course correct when necessary. At the height of the pandemic, the biggest challenge our health system faced was being able to create enough ICU beds to withstand the high demand by patients. We had to create ICUs out of operating rooms, ICUs out of procedure suites, ICUs out of conference areas. That meant construction. It meant creating negative pressure rooms. It meant piping in oxygen. Our creativity and agility in responding to the urgency of the time is what allowed us to persevere. Diversity is something else I feel strongly about. Diversity of thought, gender, age, race. I truly believe that when teams have diversity, teams do better, which results in better results overall.

Additionally, an excellent CEO is one who prioritizes the mental health and well-being of its staff. These last few years we have experienced one of the worst public health crises that I have seen in my 40-year career. As difficult as the last three years have been, we have made addressing burnout and prioritizing our team's mental, emotional and physical well-being our top priority. That can only be done by listening and talking with your employees — it's about hearing both the good and the bad and finding ways to address these issues. At NewYork-Presbyterian, we have instituted a zero harm initiative and have provided well-being and mental health resources to staff and employees (e.g., well-being coaches, psychological symptom tracker, etc.), ensuring a secure and safe environment for all who work at our hospital.

Kevin Mahoney. CEO of University of Pennsylvania Health System (Philadelphia): You can't approach the world as it is today. You have to imagine it as it will be 10 years from now and advance toward the future you envision. I often say success is the daily pursuit of a worthy goal. At Penn Medicine, we work toward our goals through strategy, execution, communication and culture — and the only way to execute is by empowering your workforce and building a culture where people want to flourish, develop and advance in their careers.

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