Kaiser Permanente CEO on healthcare leadership

With nearly 30-years under his belt at Kaiser Permanente, CEO Bernard J. Tyson (pictured right) has learned a lot about healthcare leadership.

A key factor to running the integrated provider and nonprofit health plan is keeping commitments, Tyson said a recent interview with The New York Times. "It doesn't mean you have to be perfect. It means that you live by your word," he said.

The healthcare industry also needs leaders who know how to ask questions that put the focus on getting staff to reach the best conclusion rather than on who gets credit. "I've seen leaders who asked questions in a way that was meant to show you who's the smartest person in the room. It's a degrading way of asking questions," he told the Times.

That echoes a lesson healthcare leaders can learn from military deployment: No egos allowed, according to an October Hospital Impact blog post. "No matter a person's rank or title, everyone must understand ego and leadership are two very different things," Jacqueline Thompson, M.D., of Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, N.C., wrote in the post. Leaders who display an attitude of superiority can hurt team morale and productivity, she warned.

And while ranks don't call for egos, healthcare leaders must understand the dynamics of lower-level personnel to provide proper supervision, motivation and support, Thompson noted.

With similar intentions, Tyson pays more attention to the nuances of individual employees so he can better understand the different personalities and ways to process information. "I used to think that because I am the kind of leader who likes to think out loud, then everybody is supposed to think out loud," he told the Times. "Some people need to think and reflect, and then articulate what they have to say."

To learn more:
- read the Times article

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