3 healthcare leader lessons from recent controversies

Anytime a high-profile figure or company makes a public blunder, the fallout provides valuable lessons for all those in powerful positions--including healthcare executives.

Such is the case with veteran news anchor Brian Williams' recent fall from grace, which started with the revelation that he embellished a tale about his experience on a military helicopter during the Iraq War and ended with a tarnished reputation and an NBC-imposed suspension. But it's not all bad news: Learning from Williams' mistakes may save others from major missteps.

Here are three important takeaways for healthcare leaders from recent headline-grabbing controversies:

1. Understand that trust is everything. In the healthcare industry, just like in the news business, maintaining the public's trust is paramount to success--and violating it can have lasting consequences, according to Becker's Hospital Review. For example, Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish, whose company is grappling with a historic data breach that exposed 80 million customers' private information, must work to regain the public's trust amid a firestorm of criticism. "It's my view that how we engage with our members and customers in difficult times truly defines our relationship with them," Swedish said in an email to the L.A. Times. "Our primary goal is to earn back their trust and confidence in Anthem."

2. Be willing to pick up the pieces. Healthcare leaders must do everything in their power to maintain their credibility in the community and among their employees, Becker's writes, but if that credibility is ever called into question, how executives handle themselves in a crisis also matters. It's always easier to gain back trust when there was a great deal placed in the organization or leader to begin with, but it also helps to communicate genuine remorse as well as take concrete steps to right any wrongs, according to the publication.

3. Focus on the bigger picture. NBC was wise in its decision to suspend Williams because the move communicates that the "network and credibility of their product is more important than one person, no matter how popular and likable," Karen Friedman, a communication coach, speaker and chief improvement officer at Karen Friedman Enterprises, wrote in a piece for the Philadelphia Business Journal. In the healthcare industry specifically, charismatic leaders sometimes cross the line intp narcissism, and can ultimately do their organization more harm than good, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Becker's article
- here's the Philadelphia Business Journal piece