What Makes a Great CEO? 5 Thoughts From Dallas Medical Center CEO Raji Kumar

KUMAR RAJI"I'm a hospital turnaround CEO."

So says Raji Kumar, CEO of Dallas Medical Center. After four years leading the hospital and seeing profits and admissions triple, Ms. Kumar lives up to her self-proclaimed title — the hospital that was losing nearly $2 million every month in 2010 declared $5 million in profits last year.

Here, Ms. Kumar shares five thoughts on what makes a great hospital CEO.

1. Having a clear vision. "Most of us don't go where we're going out of luck. It's usually by design," Ms. Kumar says. She attributes her successes in turning a profit at Dallas Medical Center partly to identifying a vision, establishing a plan and following through. It's about having a roadmap, she says.

2. Effectively communicating. Not only do successful hospital leaders need a roadmap, but they need to be able to communicate that roadmap and engage employees in the journey, Ms. Kumar says. "Being able to [inspire and engage your employees] and build trust in your organization has a direct impact on the productivity of your organization," she says.

3. Making decisions. The decisions aren't always going to be ideal, and often leaders don't have all the desired information, but an effective leader has to take that initiative when needed. "Organizations become very stagnant when people can't make decisions," Ms. Kumar says. "Sometimes people find themselves stuck in analysis. As CEO, you have to make the best decisions given what you have in hand, and you have to take those risks."

4. Recruiting and developing the right staff. An organization thrives when its people do, so it is imperative to have the right members on the team. Ms. Kumar says the departments that require her attention are often departments that don't have the right type of leadership. "If you don't get the people right, then nothing goes right," she says. "Systems and technologies are all there to enhance what your people do, but if you don't get the people right, none of that matters."

5. Managing your resources. With changing reimbursements, care coordination structures and approaches to care quality, hospital resources are dwindling. Leaders and organizations are now more than ever tasked with becoming more efficient to more effectively work with the resources they do have. Ms. Kumar says this efficiency starts with the employees, so leaders should make sure each employee is engaged and empowered. "I'm looking for owners, not renters," she says. "We need people who can take ownership of the situation."

More Articles on Hospital and Health System Leadership:

10 Essential Reads for CEOs
Call to Action: Why CEO Recruitment Must Change
5 Things to Know About Methodist Le Bonheur's Michael Ugwueke


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