Leadership of any organization is the foundation of its culture. With the rapidly changing healthcare environment of today's world and the confluent factors of intergenerational workforces, discrimination and inequities, and public incivility, the role of the leader is more important than ever.
This past weekend I attended the celebration of the life of Frances Hesselbein, who recently passed away at the age of 107. Frances was one of my most cherished mentors and friends. Frances, with all of her 5-foot-2-inch stature, was a giant in the world of leadership. She led Girl Scouts of America from an almost defunct status to a membership of more than 3M young women strong. When she "retired" from the Girl Scouts organization at the age of 76, she assumed leadership of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, now known as the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. In this role for more than three decades, she became a prolific author and advised numerous nonprofit leaders, corporate executives, and U.S. military officers. Frances was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House in 1998 by President Clinton for being a pioneer for women, volunteerism, diversity, and opportunity. Celebrating her life this past weekend and speaking of her impact as a mentor to them were such dignitaries as General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration, and General Lloyd Austin, current U.S. Secretary of Defense.
Frances always talked about the importance of being grounded in your organization's mission. She resisted offers of money from companies wanting Girl Scouts to deliver their promotional material when they sold cookies. "Although the money would have been helpful," she wrote, "having Girl Scouts deliver promotional material for a private company had nothing to do with our mission."
"Leadership," Frances said, "is a matter of how to be, not how to do." She called for leaders "who are healers and unifiers." Instead of the usual pyramid of the corporate hierarchy, she favored a circle, facilitating cooperation rather than commands. She felt mentorship was essential for any leader and referred to it as "a leadership privilege." "To serve is to live" was her motto.
Organizations of the future need great leaders. The character and values that leaders bring to an organization permeate the culture and impact recruitment and retention, workplace satisfaction, quality of work delivered, and customer satisfaction.
Recognizing the importance of strong leadership in healthcare, HIGN is launching its new online Leadership Series, a collection of 6 interactive modules to enhance the skills of people in management and leadership positions across the healthcare spectrum. Please click here to learn more.