The advice 5 hospital CEOs remember most

The Corner Office series asks hospital and health system CEOs to answer questions about their life in and outside the office.

In each interview, leaders share the piece of advice they remember most clearly. Here are answers collected by Becker's Hospital Review this year.

Robert Garrett. CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health (Edison, N.J.): It's actually a great quote I came across several years ago and it has really stayed with me: "Leaders who don't listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say." It's a quote by Andy Stanley. Our teams are encouraged to speak up. In fact, I joke with some of our most outspoken leaders and say, "Here comes the Jersey straight talk."

Cliff Megerian, MD. CEO of University Hospitals (Cleveland): One that is germane and most important is to know that when you reach the highest level of organizational leadership, you are judged less on your technical knowledge and evaluated more on successes that are based on your judgment.

As a surgeon, technical knowledge is very important. But as I assumed the CEO role, it became very clear that because it's not possible to know every single detail all the time, I needed to ensure I had the best and brightest team, empower them and build relationships throughout the organization to share knowledge. This enables me to then make sound and informed decisions.  

Candice Saunders, BSN. President and CEO of Wellstar Health System (Marietta, Ga.): While I was in nursing school, I learned the importance of serving our patients with empathy and compassion. This was critical while I was at the bedside, and has continued to remain relevant during each stage of my career. Now, as a leader, empathy and compassion are more important than ever. Everything we do as a system and every decision we make from the boardroom to the operating room is centered around people — our patients, physicians, caregivers, team members and the communities we serve. My career journey from nursing to healthcare administration has not been a shift away from caring for people, it's been a transition in support of people. 

I have carried the importance of that advice throughout my career, and it is now one of Wellstar's values — I hope that all our physicians, caregivers and team members continue to serve our patients and one another with compassion. 

Robert Stone. CEO of City of Hope (Duarte, Calif.): I remember advice I received a decade ago. I had been named City of Hope's next CEO, but I had not yet assumed the role. One of our donors told me that the key to my success will be maintaining the special culture forged over the past 100 years. His advice was to actively meet with employees on the front lines to listen to their insights and concerns; remember that each of them own a part of our sacred mission. I have taken this advice to heart throughout my tenure as CEO by having regular roundtable discussions of 10-12 people. The two rules for these roundtables are that no questions are off limits, and I will protect the individuals' anonymity while asking them to share with their colleagues anything I say. The insights I have gleaned from the dialogue are invaluable and the discussion topics alone help me understand what is top of mind for the City of Hope stakeholders.

Beth Walker. CEO of Ochsner Baptist (New Orleans): I had an executive coach, and it was at a time when I had a lot of insecurities about my abilities. I was struggling with imposter syndrome and thinking, "Someday, somebody's going to wake up and realize I'm not all that good at what I do." I had this fear of people finding me out in a way. And I remember talking to the coach, Rebecca, about that. She looked at me and said, "Beth, you are not successful in spite of who you are, you are successful because of who you are." And that was a poignant moment to me. I was able to start embracing my ability to build relationships and connections and to get people to follow me as a strength and not a liability. That was advice tied to authenticity and leaning into who you are and understanding the strengths that you can bring. I've used that as an example to so many other young leaders, especially to say, "We've all had these different challenges. But what are your core competencies as a human and not just what does an article say are the top skills every CEO should have?"

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