What it means to be an accountable healthcare leader

While leadership styles vary by personal and institutional attributes, key behaviors, standards and beliefs create a culture of accountability in the C-suite.

Three health system executives exchanged their ideas for what accountable leadership looks like during a panel session at Becker's CEO + CFO Virtual Event Nov. 9. The panel, titled "Creating accountable healthcare leaders and a high-reliability organization," featured:

  • Peter Banko, president of Centura Health in Centennial, Colo.
  • Scott James, COO of Parkview Cancer Institute in Fort Wayne, Ind., and senior vice president of cancer and surgical services at Parkview Health in Fort Wayne 
  • Cheryl Sadro, executive vice president and chief business and finance officer for the office of the president at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston 

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on demand, click here.

Question: What does it mean to be an accountable leader in healthcare today? 

Cheryl Sadro: First and foremost, we need to tell our teams that the patient is always at the center of what we do, no matter if we're an academic medical center or a large health system. We need to be organizationally focused, not just focused on a particular service line. And then we need to set the tone. We are the people that people look at to understand what's going on with the organization, particularly now during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Scott James: It's important to have self-awareness and situational awareness. When you're talking about being accountable during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's something that is outside of our normal operational components. You need to add your own personal and situational awareness and make sure you're training your folks on being accountable, too, and working with them to rise up to that.

Peter Banko: I would define it by three skills. First, accountable leaders can think systemically, so they're able to realistically say what's going on internally. They have an understanding of the external environment. Second, they have a fascination with the future and can make it appear like the future is here in the present. Third, and I think most important, is they're able to mobilize and motivate others to take action. They have to be both educators and action-takers.

More articles on healthcare leadership:
The future of healthcare is diverse
How 12 CEOs revitalize themselves
U of Iowa Hospital CEO tells patients to have a backup as local hospitals fill

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