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It is a family business.

When you hear that term, it is not often that you think of a 350-bed regional medical center.  To be honest, there are not very many hospitals of that size where the term “family business” would apply.  That is too bad.    

iStock_000016174337SmallCompanies, including hospitals, are like big families “in the sense that if the parents get along, then it is likely the rest of the family will be harmonious,” so says David Rosenblatt, Chief Executive Officer of, an online marketplace for high-end goods including art, antique jewelry and furniture.  He was featured in Sunday’s New York Times Corner Office feature.  Truth is, that CEOs who focus on building a strong senior leadership team and healthcare executive leadership with a singular focus on patients and the good of the organization, versus individual career goals or silly ego agendas, lead organizations that generally outperform those which do not appreciate that particular leadership tenet.

Why?  While all families have some level of discord, the families led by parents who model a strong commitment to core values of honesty, integrity and respect for one another, tend to have a healthy interaction; the family unit is valued by each member and the overwhelming majority of the time, there is a strong sense of commitment to supporting one another and doing the right thing.  

The family model of leadership is high risk leadership.  It is much easier — and safer — for many CEOs to be a leader who adopts the metrics/performance model in which he/she defines the relationship with individual executives by a strict set of performance metrics that each member must deliver.  There are friendly, cordial relationships and exchanges, but this model thrives off the professionalism and the competence of the team, not the warmth and energy of a tight knit family.  

A third model, the conductor style, is gaining attention of CEOs who see the transformation of the healthcare delivery model as supremely challenging.  Great conductors not only offer a stage presence and are frequently the face of the orchestra, but the really good ones artfully adjust the contributions of each section of instruments to dramatically interpret a particular score.  The conductor must understand each musician’s skills and the capabilities of the instruments they play.  The conductor can weave the strings skills of one instrumental section to compensate for the weaknesses of another.  

The next five to eight years will be among the most challenging and consequential for healthcare CEOs.  There will be little room for error.  CEOs must develop a style that is authentic and then focus on building a team — including some pruning — that will complement the style they use.