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You are on the spot.

You are one of the top candidates to be Chief Executive Officer of a highly regarded, financially stable community hospital. So far, you feel the interview with the recruiter is going well. Then, without warning, he shifts gears and asks one of those questions:

From the following list of words, which is the most critical in determining success at the end of the day? I am not interested in a logical progression or chronological order, only the word that will be the single most important determinant of success.

  • People
  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Execution

Most candidates answer with people — either because that is “safe” since it is a popular theme expressed in most hospital annual reports — or perhaps because they think that is what I want to hear.

They would be wrong, even though people are an organization’s most important asset.

The correct answer, if there is such a thing with those questions, is execution. I am not alone in my fervent belief. There are a number of respected business consultants as well as current and former CEOs who steadfastly believe that execution trumps all other elements of success.

If you still do not believe in the correctness of that answer, ask the CEOs who had a good plan, good people and favorable market conditions but failed to execute.

The truth in business as in sports is that mediocre teams can win when they do a better job executing their plan.

Leadership is comprised of several dimensions but none is more important than a CEO who focuses his or her organization on execution and holds people accountable to be better tomorrow than they were today.