“Someone is sitting under a shade tree today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

  — Warren Buffet


What shapes our career brand?

Integrity, truthfulness and consistency? Hopefully these would be on anyone’s list.

Commitment, determination and competence? I think these qualities are essential. What about vision, engagement and communication? They are certainly on my list.

career brandSomeone who thinks strategically and executes flawlessly. Absolutely. But for me, there is another important element, especially for those who aspire to be Chief Executive Officers: Devotion to a better future for the organizations they run and the communities they serve.

For me it is central to my views on leadership and to our industry and deserves repeating.

In our crass and cynical political world, there are discussions, debates and even snarky disagreements over something called legacy; what will this person or that person’s legacy be? Recently I was struck with the thought that our attention to legacy should not focus on the individual but rather what they accomplished to make their organization and their community a better place. In no industry is that concept more relevant, more meaningful, and more consequential, than healthcare.

Healthcare leaders frequently use the phrase “to make a difference” in describing the reason they chose this industry for their life’s work. When I hear someone say that I always find myself thinking about the words, “honor, privilege and right.” Leadership in healthcare is work that should be guaranteed to no one. It is a privilege that is earned, and it comes with grave responsibility. Yes, there are important fiscal, operational and clinical standards that must be maintained in the real world. It is, after all, a business, right? And now we have arrived at the crucial issue: What are our underlying values and priorities — to earn a bigger bonus, to save our job for another month, or to focus on our work to ensure that those who follow us in our community will have the opportunity to quality, affordable and accessible healthcare services because every growing community must have this resource?

For some, my idea is a distinction without a difference, but I could not disagree more.

The best leaders, I think, are those who produce the required deliverables while all the time thinking of the future of their organization and their community and less about the size of their bonus, the employer contributions to a deferred compensation plan or some other personal priority. This is not intended as a comment on executive compensation but I will never forget the words of a wonderful surgeon from New York who said, “If you focus on the money, there will never be enough and you will never find satisfaction or happiness. Always focus on the well-being of your patients. When you do that you will find immense satisfaction and the money usually takes care of itself.”

Our values count, our motives are important. Those who are charged with running a community hospital should look carefully at these values. This is not about the term or the size of their employment contract but the future of the community.

How will your career brand be defined?

Hint: LinkedIn notwithstanding, you do not really have a say in the matter other than by your values, actions, and the results you produce.

It really is about the tree you plant.