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Ronald Reagan mastered the concept of wholesale leadership.  Some would argue he was THE master.

Reagan understood the value of television — he could, using his skills as an actor, reach out in a compelling manner and influence millions of voters through his beautifully scripted presentations.  Even his opponents respected his ability to shape public opinion.  He wasn’t bad in one-on-one meetings, but his ace in the toolbox was his ability to use television in such an effective manner.

Business peopleLast week I began a new search for a Chief Executive Officer for a small southwest Texas Critical Access Hospital, one of the best in the nation.  It is special in so many ways.  So, we are looking for a special leader who is the master of retail, not in sales but in leadership.  We will only present those candidates who can demonstrate their skill in building the one-on-one relationships with the 75 employees, the seven board members, four primary physicians and the three mid-level professionals, and the important community stakeholders.

We are not interested in a candidate who prefers to sit in a glassed-in office, blinds closed, writing policies and sending email memos.

This is such an important leadership characteristic that we will not be satisfied only by a candidate’s assurances that they are retail kings.  The follow-up question will be, “As evidenced by…”  I am not from Missouri, but I am a big devotee of their state motto, “Show me!”

We will also be prowling their careers with other specific questions about their ability to succeed in this special type of environment.  As I said earlier, this hospital is special — they are one of the best equipped CAH’s in the state, including a state-of-the-art MRI, the latest CT scan technology, a full-service lab, and an array of outpatient diagnostic capabilities.  The physicians are well trained and respected in the community and, most importantly, they have substantial financial reserves.  CEO candidates will have to prove they have the special skills for a special place.

In the interest of fair warning, candidates will be asked to list the three reasons they feel they are special leaders, providing the evidence that will support their claim.  Knowing the name of each employee is a base line — nothing special.  The successful retail leader can answer these questions:

  • Do you know the name of their spouse?
  • Their children?
  • Their birthdays?
  • Do you send personalized birthday cards in the mail?
  • Are you there when they suffer a loss or a setback in their lives?
  • How many times do you come to the hospital in the middle of the night to do something special for your team members who are on the 11/7 shift?

For CEOs who do not understand, or who are uncomfortable with the retail leadership approach, this is probably not the place for you.

Increasingly, small and community hospital CEOs must be master’s of one-on-one relationship leadership.