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Hiring “nice” is a great idea, especially when you combine that with a healthy dose of passion.

That is the approach Andy Lansing takes.  A recovering lawyer, Mr. Lansing is President and Chief Executive Officer of Chicago-based Levy Restaurants, a food service company with a diverse portfolio of operations that includes award-winning restaurants such as James Beard-winning Spiaggia and Bistro 110 in Chicago, Fulton’s Crab House, Portobello and Wolfgang Puck Grand Café at Walt Disney World Resort, renowned sports and entertainment venues like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, and American Airlines Arena in Miami, and events including the Super Bowl, World Series, Kentucky Derby, NHL and NBA All-Star Games and the Grammy Awards.

If healthcare is one of the most complex businesses in the world, then leading a company of restaurants and food service operations all across the country can be more than just a challenge, especially in tough economic times.  Mr. Lansing says give him people who are nice and passionate and he can teach them everything they need to know, and everyone can have fun doing it.

In healthcare we take ourselves very seriously.  It is deeply baked in our industry’s DNA – we do very serious work, from brain surgery to delivering babies or suturing a child’s cut.  We hire people with the appropriate credentials, technical expertise, and experience.

Our choices for leadership reflect that industry DNA.  Sometimes we hire more for credentials and supposed track record with almost no emphasis on the candidate’s personality or leadership style.  Then we are shocked when there is a CEO meltdown and an expensive severance agreement. 

Mr. Lansing argues that there are two kinds of leaders – those with positional power and those with personal power.  He describes positional power this way: “I have power over you because I am your boss. I am important. I am the CEO. You should fear me because of who I am.”

Personal power, Mr. Lansing explains, “is what is inside you.  It is how you treat people and how you lead.” 

Mr. Lansing’s leadership philosophy is a model that some hospital CEOs should take to heart.  Employees will always work harder, go the extra mile and care more about what they are doing for the capable CEO who knows how to treat people.

Over the next several years, healthcare will face unprecedented challenges – from reimbursement to more scrutiny on quality of care and patient safety.  CEOs will need every advantage they can muster to thrive in this type of turbulent environment. 

The “screamers,” the “barkers” and the abusive, tough-guy senior leaders who think their way is the best way should sit in the time out chair and learn some important lessons from a very smart CEO who is passionate about his company and who is also a nice person.

Source:  New York Times, “A Deal-Breaker Question for Job Interviews," Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011

© 2011 John Gregory Self

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