MHA CEO Report – Leaders Become Executives; Not the Other Way Around

Posted on November 02, 2020

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood. Teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

MHA CEO Brian PetersHealthcare delivery systems depend on synergistic teams working together to deliver patient care. These systems are not just dependent on clinicians who are directly providing treatment to a patient, but to a wide variety of support staff, including janitorial, food service and security, just to name a few.

As healthcare executives, we know that the success of our organizations is directly correlated with the success of the staff that we employ and the teams they create. It is not always about how talented an individual is, but how well the collection of talent can work together toward a common goal. It is about leaders helping team members embrace challenges and uncomfortable situations because it contributes to delivering patient care and saving lives.

To achieve those goals, teams rely on leadership, whether formally or informally. These teams identify leaders by asking questions such as:

  • Is my co-worker understanding of the challenges that I’m facing?
  • Are expectations communicated clearly?
  • Is my work contributing to a greater purpose?

Later this week, I have the pleasure to speak at the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives, held virtually. The theme of the meeting is healthcare executive career management. Part of my presentation will focus on leadership, including the most valuable skills for a leader.

PeopleFluent outlined the five most important skills as:

  1. Empathy
  2. Communication
  3. Strategic decision-making
  4. Self-awareness
  5. Customer-first oriented.

If you reflect on the strong leaders that you’ve worked with, I’m sure many of these skills will come to mind. As the chief executive officer of the MHA, I have relied on these skills throughout my career, as well as sought them out when identifying other leaders within our association. The fact is leaders and executives do not become executives first and then develop these skills after accepting the position. These skills have been apparent and practiced throughout a career and are often one of the main reasons someone is deserving of an executive position.

Within these skills is whether we, as leaders, are modeling the appropriate behaviors to those we are leading. Simply put, are we practicing the same behaviors that we are stressing?

Our country is experiencing a far greater surge of COVID-19-positive cases than experienced in the spring. Leaders from both the healthcare and business communities have come together to convey the seriousness of our situation. Recently, hospital chief medical officers in Michigan release a joint statement on the topic, a day after members of the Michigan Economic Recovery Council issued a letter to Michigan’s political leaders expressing similar sentiments. We know that it is only a matter of time before another peak in hospitalizations and deaths follows. Unfortunately, our healthcare workforce is not immune. They live in our communities and are not exempt from community spread.

This workforce has served on the front lines of the pandemic for nearly eight months. They have experienced significant trauma. The mental and physical stress they experience is difficult to imagine. Burnout is real.

As our most valuable asset, we need to protect our caregivers. With physician and nursing shortages that were concerning even before the pandemic, our staffing resources are finite. We have the means to acquire and add more physical beds if necessary; acquiring hospital workers is much more difficult.

Recently, a growing concern of the executives of our member hospitals is that the rates at which healthcare staff are contracting COVID-19 is increasing, with many of these cases traced back to social exposure, as staff let their guard down and do not completely adhere to COVID-19 prevention guidelines. It can be as simple as getting too close with others while eating in a breakroom. It may be getting together over the weekend with friends indoors and without masks.

A key tenet of leadership is doing the right thing, no matter how difficult it may be. As healthcare leaders, we know that simple things such as wearing masks, staying physically distanced from others, washing our hands regularly and staying home saves lives. If we aspire to be the best versions of ourselves and the best leaders, we must model these behaviors to the best of our ability. Our staff, our teams and the public at large are looking to us for guidance. For us to be there and at the ready to care for them, practicing these guidelines is an absolute.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.


  • MHA CEO Report – Leaders Become Executives; Not the Other Way Around

Tags: Brian Peters, CEO Report, COVID-19

Posted in: MHA Rounds

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