When people look at you, do they see a good woman or a good man?  Do they see a leader who cares about you and your success and about being a good leader for you?

Over the years I have observed that more than a few executives frequently separate the self image they have of their personal leadership brand, the one they like to polish for recruiters and the general public, from their day-to-day persona, the person who shows up to work focused solely on producing financial and operational results.  Now here is the unfortunate part of this phenomenon, many think their employees don’t notice.  They are mistaken.

Britt Berrett, PhD, FACHE, a former hospital CEO at Medical City and THR Presbyterian Hospitals in Dallas, said on a recent podcast that his best years financially and clinically were those in which they were focusing not on the money, but their people, developing a strong team.  Grinding away on your employees to produce better results financially is simply a terrible strategy for long-term success, Dr. Berrett believes.

Britt, like so many other highly successful CEOs, believes that an important duty of a true leader is to demonstrate your love for the people who are there to deliver on the organization’s mission.  His commitment and regard for his team was not something he hid from view, he was unabashedly devoted to communicating his support for those who worked for him.  It paid off.  In times of crisis, as when a severe ice storm crippled travel within the city, his employees reported for work because of their shared sense of commitment for the mission, and devotion to their patients.  Britt was there too, handing out the pizzas he’d ordered for everyone bunking in throughout the facility.

So as you advance in your career, ask yourself:

  • Are you paying attention to your values and how your team perceives who you are?
  • Are you someone who coldly focuses on the financial results to avoid the wrath of the corporate overseers
  • Or, do you engage your employees with love of mission and purpose?
  • Are you seen as someone who understands that the business of healthcare begins first with the employees?

An old colleague, a now former division President of a major hospital management company, told me recently that, at the end of the day, the warm touchy, feely approach was just an enormous load of misguided fad (his term was a little more colorful) management, not worth the effort.  “This is a business and we are in the business first and foremost to produce profits for our investors.  Spending time on trying to motivate people to do the job we are paying them to do is an inappropriate use of corporate resources.”  Today, that company is failing financially.

Dr. Berrett says that a hard-edged approach to leadership is unsustainable.  That said, he is the first to admit that while he cares about his employees and works hard to develop his team, “This is not a family reunion.  I am not your mommy.”  In other words, loving your team does not include a free pass for meeting or exceeding operational, clinical and financial obligations.

Yes, healthcare is a business and yes, leaders have a moral duty to be good financial stewards.  However, delivering healthcare to the communities we serve is a business that must, at its very core, have a conscience.

What a waste of a career if you are known primarily as the leader who relentlessly focused on financial results and personal bonuses without regard for the needs and concerns of your employees.