The current issue of Fortune magazine is on lessons from the world’s greatest leaders. Given the importance of visionary and strong leadership in our pivotal health care environment, I picked up the issue with interest. The motivation for the article was a Fortune survey that found only 21% of respondents say they trust business leaders to “make ethical and moral decisions… and only 15% trust government leaders to do so.” Fortune concludes that the world is yearning for great leaders, not those who are simply admirable and powerful, but those who are transformative. It is no surprise that Pope Francis tops the Fortune list of great leaders.

President Clinton, at #5, describes leadership as “bringing people together in pursuit of a common cause, developing a plan to achieve it and staying with it until the goal is achieved.” Retired Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. discusses leading in a VUCA world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. The General states that leaders need to point the way ahead, to see around corners, identifying something significant about the future that others don’t see. This can be extremely challenging in a VUCA world that instead can foster inaction—leaders can get confused and befuddled, and therefore, may not effectively execute. The General’s advice? Seek clarity in your own mind as a leader, so you can articulate how you see things and what you want to achieve, create a common purpose and effective execution plan, and expend energy in the areas that produce the highest payoff. Similar to Clinton’s advice, but nonetheless challenging to achieve.

Everywhere in health care, business and politics, people yearn for leaders who can identify a preferred future –one with vision and hope, not only for today or even this year, but for tomorrow. Can we look forward, not with fear and apprehension of risk, but one with hope and commitment for the future? Can we create a plan, gather the right talent and execute transformation in health care in our organizations and for our state? Our communities are searching for leaders, and many Illinois hospitals and health systems are filling that gap—both humbly and effectively—to make a difference in tomorrow. Just as Fortune did, we just need to look—for leaders who define reality, inspire hope and lead change.

I eagerly surveyed the Fortune list, looking for leaders in health care. Only one came close. Kathy Giusti, CEO of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, is described as “someone who sees beyond existing constraints to imagine novel solutions to once intractable problems.”

How appropriate for our reality.

The 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, just ended but the Olympic spirit lives on as the youth of the world look forward to the next games in PyeongChang, South Korea. I admit I am an Olympic fan, having attended the 1980 games in Lake Placid, NY, and watch the games with enthusiasm. I am constantly struck by the years of dedication and practice of these elite athletes as they experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  Their lives are dedicated to their sport – it consumes every fiber of being and their level of preparation is unimaginable to most.

I like to hear the athlete’s perspectives on their performance. Many have ingrained positive thinking, “We did the best we can,” “This was our time,” or giving condolences saying, “It just didn’t come together today” or “We support our team.”  While you see the tears of personal disappointment, the words stay strong and the dedication unwavering.

Health care is certainly going through its Olympic time – requiring elite leaders to be their best, constantly preparing, thinking ahead and supporting their team despite the odds.  There is much we could learn from these young athletes.

There was one interview with a Canadian slopestyle snowboarder, a new event added to this year’s Olympics, that particularly struck me.  At 20 years old, he was expected to win this event.  Despite having just broken ribs two weeks earlier, he “rode his heart out” and ended with the bronze medal.

Immediately after his final run, the interviewer asked, what’s ahead for you? Cheerfully, this young innovator in his sport stated, “I’ll be back in four years. This sport is still progressing, there are new tricks to be done, I’ll keep progressing as a snowboarder. This world is progressing and those who progress with it will be laughing.”

Interpretation:  This world is progressing and those who progress with it will be smiling with a sense of discovery and amazement with what new things can be accomplished.  Now that is the Olympic spirit I hope can be carried forward in health care.

Maryjane Wurth
President and CEO
Illinois Hospital Association

Compassion for our Colleagues

I believe all of us in the health care community have been stunned as we’ve seen the devastating images of tornado-ravaged Moore, Oklahoma. Schools, homes and businesses flattened. And as local reporters and residents said, “Our hospital was hit.”

OUR hospital.

That’s how local communities think of their hospitals. Their own place to seek shelter, go for help, go for health. And perhaps most of all—go for hope. As one person said, “Where do we go now?”

In Moore, it was only the hospital building itself that was destroyed. Again we have seen a situation that highlights the selfless devotion of those who work in hospitals as well as the importance of disaster preparedness and training.

As a colleague at the Oklahoma Hospital Association said, “The hospital staff there did all the right things, and miraculously, none of the patients, employees or the 300+ citizens who took shelter there right before the storm were injured.”

Moore, your hospital building may be gone now, but it’s living in the hearts of all those—caretakers and non-patient care providers alike—that do the right thing when a tragedy big or small strikes. For every day, in every hospital, someone is having the worst day of their life. But life goes on, and a newly-built Moore hospital will again be visible as a sign of hope and cornerstone of your community.

Many Moore Hospital staff members returned to destroyed or damaged homes. I hope you will join IHA and me in contributing to a fund to assist them. Moore hospital, part of Norman Regional Health System, is accepting online donations for employees who suffered losses. Tax-deductible donations also may be mailed to: Norman Regional Health Foundation, P.O. Box 1665, Norman, OK 73070. Please indicate “Employees – Moore Medical Center” if donations are made online or by check.

Let’s help our colleagues heal too.

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