Why heart and soul should be valued the most

I had the honor of speaking to this year’s graduating class of the Henry Ford Health System Leadership Academy. It was a wonderful opportunity to congratulate this diverse and talented group of individuals, chosen for their current and potential leadership, and to see the many projects that they had initiated during their nine-month training.

Henry Ford Health System Leadership Academy – 2017 Graduates

I was asked to provide words of wisdom to share with them on their leadership journey. Quite honestly, the older I become the less wise I believe I am and the more humble I am about giving others advice.

I did share my thoughts about careers and organizations, despite a world in which ties to an organization for a career or even for long periods of time are a thing of the past. Many of the young tell me they expect to be employed by many organizations in their career. More experienced leaders talk about the need to be in many organizations to become the best leader possible.

As it relates to career in one organization, I realize that I am a dinosaur in this regard, having spent over 40 years at Henry Ford.

Why did I make that choice? I will tell you why.

Great organizations are not nameless, faceless and amorphous entities. Great organizations have hearts and souls. Call it culture or values, but I believe organizations are viable entities that possess these elements.

The heart and soul of great organizations comes from two sources. The rank and file employees, who anonymously carry out their roles and tasks every day, who represent the collective heart of the organization. And the leaders who implement the values of the organization and are thereby the keepers of the soul.

And that is the reason I have stayed for my career at Henry Ford. I have stayed at Henry Ford because of its heart and soul, which have been resilient for several decades. The commitment to our employees and patients. The persistence to do the right things, even when the more difficult road. The honesty to face problems head on. The creativity to develop solutions. And the drive to inspire and reach, even when others driven by external reports or speculative returns create hurdles.

The heart of our organization wants to believe in the institution that we are. Our leaders are entrusted to preserve the soul and carry the torch of who we are collectively from generation to generation.

If our future leaders stay close to this heart and their soul, and commit to its character, our future will be bright. Not always facing calm winds, but with the confidence of the skilled and the inspired.

Our new leaders have to understand health care is not for the faint of heart. How much easier the path of the entrepreneur committed to themselves and their financial scorecards. Commitment to only oneself is an easier path than commitment to a multitude of others.

Health care, the most human of all businesses, is at its core, a business for the serving of others. Regardless of the role played, be it in the billing office or the OR, all of us in health care are doing this for one expressed business goal, the return or maintenance of the health of others. The health that is needed to fulfill all of life’s dreams and aspirations. The health that no wealth can exceed in importance.

Complexities in our industry are great, and perhaps becoming greater. These new leaders will confront many of the challenges that my generation did not or would not. We will all need them to be the next great leaders and hence why they are so important to the future of Henry Ford.

So good luck to all. Graduation from anything is good. It is a milestone, as this is as well, but only a point in your journey. Keep growing, keep learning, listen to the heart, and keep the soul of our great organization.

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13 thoughts on “Why heart and soul should be valued the most

  1. I feel exactly this way… it is the reason I have spent my entire nursing career here at HFH.

  2. I was once a two-year-and-out kinda girl for the first 15 years of my career. Then I came to HFHS and seven years later I haven’t left yet. You’re right, working in healthcare makes it bigger than just about oneself. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. Now, I still crave diversity. I want exposure to different subject matters and skills. I have satisfied those needs by taking on new roles in different business units every few years. Not all of the newer generation will make such an effort to look for new roles within the organization. Might the organization start being more proactive in this regard? Develop programs to assign resources to assignments for a year or two with the idea that HR will work with them to find the next HF experience and encourage them to stay in the system? Thank you for the humble words of wisdom. And for being a great leader.

  3. Dear John, nice job! Not too long, full of “meat without the potatoes.” Heart and Soul is the basis for daily activities and responsibilities. Even though Cupertino,CA gives many participants great monetary reward, the day-to-day reward of patient care and medical leadership remain paramount. Keep up the good work. Best regards, Fred Whitehouse

  4. Shannon, thanks for sharing your background, thoughts and your kind words. I believe you are right on target about gaining experiences in other business units and how these can be as powerful as moving from one organization to another. One person I admired as an administrative colleague was the late Tom Groth. Tom worked at HAP, in Behavioral, HFMG, and Henry Ford Hospital. He knew the business inside and out, and he was able to translate cross business knowledge into success in implementation. It provided a perspective from multiple angles for a common result. In discussion we have had in leadership evaluation and succession, the importance of taking on new roles and moving to different parts of the organization is felt to be an important part of our future leadership development. Both may cause discomfort, but offers great growth and learning without having to go out of the organization.

  5. As a PGY-3, I am a relative newbie at Henry Ford Hospital. I have been considering a transition into healthcare management as part of my long-term career goals, and I’ve been seeking out advice from current leaders in the field. I recently reached out to Dr. Marc Harrison who is president and CEO at Intermountain HealthCare and he shared with me that the best preparation for leadership is to become the most credible and ethical person that you can be.

    I believe Dr. Harrison’s advice is in line with Dr. Popovich’s recommendations here for preserving our souls. The healthcare business (though I prefer to call it the business of healthcare) is similar to any other business in that there are enormous internal and external pressures keep the organization profitable. Add to that the myriad government regulations on providers and administration alike and you have a situation where the core foundation of what the business of healthcare is meant to be, the preservation of health, can easily be lost in all the cacophony.

    One practical solution to this problem is to preserve our souls! Doing so will give us the courage to resist corruption and to consistently do the right thing. It will also give us the clarity we need to carry out our mission to improve the lives of others. And adding value to those around us is our true calling in life, regardless of our occupation.

    Thank you, Dr. Popovich, for your ethical leadership.

  6. Staying with same institution has many advantages. I feel like I grew up at Henry Ford. Been here for 33 years from nursing school on. I have provided care for the first liver and pancreas transplant, been there the first time a preemie was given artificial surfactant, visited the first robotic prostatectomy as a home care nurse just to name a few of the many exciting experiences I’ve had. I know and trust the medical staff so I’m comfortable and confidant referring friends and family for their specialty care. My very best friends of 30 years are from the system. I’m so very grateful that while being on multiple waiting lists for nursing schools 33 years ago, Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing called and said they had an opening. It made me who I am today.

  7. Thank you Dr. Lee. Knowing Marc Harrison, I would have expected him to comment as you have noted. He is a leader who demonstrates honesty, integrity and professionalism.

    Leadership in health care is truly about making the right decisions in the service of others. Not always easy, not always the consensus, and sometimes not turning out to be correct, but as we are guided by our hearts and souls, we will truly find our path to provide the greatest good.

    Good luck in your journey!

  8. Darlene, what a career of nursing in some of the most innovative advancements in medicine! Thank you for 33 great years of caring.

  9. You were always an inspiration to any clinician who was lucky enough to see you attend to patients. Hard working, dedicated, smart, compassionate only begins to describe who you are. You have made Henry Ford a much better place. For this you should be very proud. Hope to catch up with you sometime soon.

  10. Steve, I appreciate your kind words, but you are also one of those hard working, dedicated, smart clinicians who cared for patients with all of your heart and soul.

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