Execution is one of those great business competencies that is a two-edged sword. No where is that more true than in healthcare.

In the go-go era of business, when Jack Welch set a new standard for performance by a Fortune 50 Chief Executive Officer at GE, the competency of execution became a hot topic for business writers and executive recruiters.  Ram Charan, a respected business consultant quality careand Larry Bossidy,a former CEO of AlliedSignal (later Honeywell) who earned his stripes working for Welch, wrote a best-seller, Execution:  The Discipline of Getting Things Done.  Recruiters, seizing the resurgence of interest in this concept, grilled candidates on their ability to successfully execute with a new sense of vigor.

It was an important concept in the 1980s and today it remains an essential competency for leaders.  But just as the cautionary idiom, Be careful what you pray for because you might get it, has relevance in the world of business, execution can be its first cousin.

If you cannot execute successfully, then you cannot lead and you cannot succeed, regardless of what you do in life.  To avoid ethical and social pitfalls, leaders must double back to be certain that their priorities, the basis for execution, are correctly aligned with the needs of their customers, their employees and, in the case of a hospital, their community.

Profits are important.   As the late Sister Irene Kraus, a former school teacher who led Daughters of Charity healthcare system famously said, “…no margin…no mission”.  She backed up that priority with a commitment to community service and an ethical code of conduct that generally ensured that her business operations stayed true to their mission.

She executed on her priorities extremely well and she made sure that her priorities were the right ones.

As the pressures of uncertainty brought on by an evolving new value-based reimbursement model challenge hospital CEOs like never before, a leader’s values matter, something to which recruiters and employers should pay special attention.

Simply producing profits cannot be the end game for our industry.