Acknowledging Our Mentors: Bill Rieger Learned How Not To Lead

Behind every accomplished individual is at least one person who helped shape his or her career and pave the way to success. In recognition of these mentors, healthsystemCIO.com has developed a blog series that provides a forum for health IT leaders to acknowledge those who gave them an opportunity to excel and taught valuable lessons along the way. It’s a chance to give back to those who have given so much of their time and attention. If you are interested in contributing to this series, contact Kate Gamble.

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Bill Rieger, CIO, Flagler Hospital

Bill Rieger, CIO, Flagler Hospital

While I have had respect for former employers and leaders that I have worked with, I often walk away from those relationships with a seeming reality of what not to do versus what to do — how not to lead versus how to lead. While I was explaining this to someone recently, they called this phenomenon the “anti-mentor.”

It seems as though I have had more anti-mentors in my career than I have had mentors or leaders who I would really want to emulate or aspire to be like. No one is perfect, especially not me. You would only need about five minutes with me on a good day to recognize the truth in that statement. But being perfect is not the point at all; I don’t think anyone has that expectation.

What I am talking about really boils down to a couple of things that I have grown to incorporate into my core values: integrity, transparency, honesty, and engagement. There are others, but those are the most important. I have worked with leaders who have accomplished great things, and as a result, their legacies are etched in stone. Accomplishment is important, but to me, not nearly as important as relationship and the responsibility to bring up the next generation.

When I got my first CIO job, one leader told me that the thing he was most proud of in his career is the people he has helped grow. I like this perspective. At the end of our lives, we will all tell a story. That story will be filled mostly with great memories of relationships, not accomplishments. The story will also be sprinkled with regret — regret about relationships, and regret about not taking enough chances. If I can have that perspective now, the understanding that I am now living the story I will tell before I die, I might be more mindful of the relationships that I have around me. If you don’t believe this, spend some time with someone who is old and getting near the end. You’ll hear stories of family and relationships. It shakes you a bit, but it also helps with perspective.

Now just because I have had anti-mentors, it doesn’t mean I didn’t learn. Look at the perspective I learned from them. In his book, Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age, Tom Peters says you can learn from anyone. He says that if you are an employee and you don’t like that way your boss or company does something, remember it, and when you get to be the boss, don’t do it!

It sounds simple and easy, and it actually is. But there will inevitably be something you do as a boss and leader that someone else doesn’t like, and they will have the same perspective. John Eldridge covers this in his book, Wild At Heart, by saying that the biggest wounds in our life come from our parents, and the biggest wounds in our children’s life will come from theirs. No matter how hard we try, we will all make mistakes and hurt people. A great mentor and leader will show others by their actions how to be humble, recover from mistakes, and salvage relationships.

There are a variety of great monitoring programs out there and they all provide value. One thing that Darren Hardy, publisher of Success magazine, has taught me is that you can have “electronic” mentors. I read and listen to podcasts of leaders I want to emulate. I listen to other CIOs through healthsystemcio.com’s podcasts, and they are invaluable to me.

I will end with one of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar, “If you don’t like who you are or where you are, don’t sweat it — you can change it.” Sometimes anti-mentors are dropped in our lives, but you don’t have to settle for that. Go find a mentor — they are out there, digitally or physically.

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