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.
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.