In all the years I’ve been attending conferences — including both health IT and medical association events — I’ve never seen anything quite like yesterday’s opening keynote address.
Not only did the speaker play to a packed house, but he finished with one — along with a standing ovation. And throughout his talk, business consultant and bestselling author, Jim Collins, had the full attention of his audience.
“People were taking notes,” said Bill Rieger, CIO at Flagler Hospital. During the typical keynote, he noted, he’ll see one or two colleagues jot down notes while others take the opportunity to catch up on email or read the news. But during Collins’ speech, the audience was locked in. People were listening, and many of those who did take out their devices were tweeting his words. Ed Marx, Steve Huffman, Tim Stettheimer, Joey Hobbs and Farzad Mostashari were among many who passed along nuggets like this to their followers:
- True discipline is not in what we do, it is in what we STOP doing. @SteveHuffmanCIO
- Bad decisions made with good intentions are still bad decisions. @JOEtheCIO
- Level 4 leaders inspire people to follow them. Level 5 leaders inspire people to follow a cause. @Farzad_MD
To say that Collins struck a chord would be putting it mildly. (It’s no wonder the CHIME Board was trying for years to book him as a speaker, according to our friend Drex DeFord.) He talked about what it takes to elevate an organization from good to great, from building a strong culture to approaching problems in the smartest way.
A truly great leader, he said, is one who focuses his or her energy outward, emphasizing the betterment of the organization over individual achievement. A great leader recognizes that success starts with making sure the right people are on the bus, and in the right seats. And once they’re there, it’s about maximizing the potential of every staff member and ensuring that the organization can thrive — with or without you.
Being a great leader also means being willing to reach out to colleagues and give them a boost, according to Collins, who talked about the culture at West Point — one he feels could serve as a model to hospitals and other organizations. During a visit to the Academy, he noticed that cadets would gather at the most challenging points in the obstacle course and lend a hand to their classmates who were struggling. Their focus, he noted, was on helping their colleagues scale the wall so that they could pass the course. They made sure no one was left behind.
Collins talked about the “perpetual obstacle course” CIOs are faced with and the need to put aside individual struggles and help push each other over the wall. “You get through a really difficult time not by worrying about how to help yourself, but by helping others,” he said.
His words perfectly captured the spirit of CHIME, a group in which leaders from competing entities meet regularly to compare notes, share best practices, and figure out ways to work together more effectively. The world of the health system CIOs is one in which the greater good truly does take precedence over individual needs, and those who are struggling know they can count on someone to help them over the wall.
It’s a world where Level 5 leaders, as we’re finding, aren’t the exception, but the rule.