Essential skills for exceptional hospital CEOs

Excellent healthcare leaders share several common traits, including an in-depth knowledge of how their whole business works and great decision-making skills, according to the results of a 10-year study of successful executives highlighted in Harvard Business Review.

Good CEOs can generally master a few of these crucial skills, but to be outstanding, hospital executives must perform well on all fronts, according to the article.

Researchers, led by Ron Carucci of Navalent Leadership Consulting, analyzed historical data, peer interviews and even consulted IBM's artificial intelligence Watson before isolating executive performance factors that were tied to strong organizational performance.

They found that super CEOs have mastered several skills, including but not limited to: 

An understanding about the inner workings of the entire business: Successful CEOs, said Carucci, know the workings of their business from top to bottom, have a clear knowledge of all the pieces and how they fit together. For healthcare executives, this would mean not just a working knowledge of the C-suite and business departments, but a thorough understanding of how patients move through the system and how healthcare staff and employees affect each patient's healthcare experience.

Ability to make great decisions: Good decision-making involves finding a balance between instincts and analytics, taking in information from multiple sources while still keeping the organization's overall goals in mind, according to the article. For healthcare executives, decision-making skills can literally make the difference between life and death. Patient outcomes, staff retention, patient satisfaction and other competing interests can all come to bear in making executive decisions in the healthcare setting. 

Ability to develop deep and trusting relationships: Truly excellent executives go beyond routine communication and business acumen to really connect with their superiors, their peers and employees, the article noted. A great healthcare executive fosters communication and collaboration between all levels of a hospital's departments.  

The findings echo other research on CEOs. One study of hospital chief executives found that excellent healthcare CEOs share five common traits: A willingness to embrace change, clinical competence, a reliance on data in forming strategy, a focus on the bottom line and an agile set of management skills, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Another analysis of effective hospital administrators found that they routinely were skilled with fostering interdepartmental collaboration, they have a background of diverse experiences and, again, that data drive their strategies.

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