We were blessed at the meeting by the presence of other incredible leaders in health care, including Patrick Conway and David Feinberg. Dr. Conway, the CMO of Medicare, is a service-minded colleague determined to make CMS more transparent, easier to traverse, and more aligned with what its recipients really need. Dr. Feinberg is a genuinely compassionate physician who has transformed UCLA medical center from a Motel 6 to a Ritz-Carlton in customer service. I have seen him speak before and had quite a bit of respect for him to begin with, but to watch how he handled a flock of unwieldy and uninvited guests on the stage was more than what anyone could expect from a great leader.
The Art of the Science
As we continue this unwieldy and unpredictable journey that we call health care and hospital medicine, the need for effective leadership within the industry will continue to increase. And there is little need to argue about whether leaders are naturally born, because there are more leaders needed than there are natural-born. So either way, many of us have to figure out how to be leaders, whether of a small program, a newly formed group, or a large conglomerate. And whether your contribution is large or small, it will be a contribution nonetheless.
Just as Mother Teresa was once presented with a statement from a reporter about how her care for the poor and neglected was just a “drop in the bucket” on combating poverty and dispassion. She paused and agreed: “Yes, it is just a drop in the bucket but it’s my drop.”
Just as Dr. Feinberg recounted when he was first offered the CEO position at UCLA, as an interim and unlikely candidate, he didn’t know what to do, so he just started doing what he knew how to do best. He just started walking around the hospital seeing patients, listening, visiting, saying “hello,” and giving out his business cards (his drop in the bucket). He wasn’t trying to do anything terribly innovative or strategic at the time—at least, not that he admits to. And anyone who watches Larry Wellikson work a boardroom or a ballroom can learn something about the art of leadership.
So think of leadership not as a secret sauce, or set of skills that can only be relegated to those enshrined with the DNA of a Kennedy or an MBA from an Ivy League school. It is a willingness to try to get some drops in some buckets, and lead people in a common direction. It is about being unambiguously committed and completely authentic, with a little science, and a lot of art.
Dr. Scheurer is a hospitalist and chief quality officer at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She is physician editor of The Hospitalist. Email her at [email protected].