Leadership
Talk
What’s Love Got to Do with Leadership? Everything. (09:40)

“I’ve been asked to hire people who’ve made terrible mistakes, even doctors who’ve committed fatal errors,” says Akram Boutros, President and CEO of The MetroHealth System in Ohio. “And I have — gladly. They’ve been some of my best employees.”

This success may derive from a desire to make up for past mistakes, but Boutros argues that there is something deeper at work. “When you give someone a second chance, when you look beyond their mistakes, you’re doing what each one of us does every day with our kids, our spouses, our parents,” he says. “You’re forgiving their flaws. You’re seeing them for who they really are. You’re loving them. And love, I say to you, is the only way to run an organization.”

Mixing love and business might not seem to make sense — but it works in dozens of ways, according to Boutros, particularly when people least expect it.

“Leadership as love is anathema to the winner-take-all attitude cultivated on the sports fields and reinforced in the board rooms,” adds Boutros. It “tosses aside” principles taught in business school and leadership skills that grew out of the Industrial Revolution–era assembly line. “It’s time to . . . forget about command and control and workflow charting and pay for performance,” argues Boutros, “and replace it with teamwork, collaboration, and trust, adaptation, and pay for value.”

Boutros offers the example of when MetroHealth successfully moved to a service-line structure and reorganized the leadership team into a dyad model of physician-administrator in 2015.

Within three years, MetroHealth transformed from a $855-million company to a $1.1-billion company. Operating income increased from 0.5% to 3%, and they raised more than $3 million for campus transformation.

“When you’re trying to lead an organization through turbulent times, a world of mergers and shutdowns and cost constraints, love goes a long, long way,” says Boutros. “It’s money in the bank. It’s goodwill you can count on.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Leadership: Translating Challenge to Success at Mayo Clinic, June 2, 2016.

More From Leadership

Physician Well-Being: The Reciprocity of Practice Efficiency, Culture of Wellness, and Personal Resilience

Think of physician well-being as a three-legged stool. Improvement efforts should focus on all three domains to achieve best results.

Engaging Community Physicians in Innovation

Many physicians are simply unaware that innovation is a process and that entrepreneurship is a discipline.

Leadership Survey: Anticipating the Trump Administration’s Impact on Health Care

NEJM Catalyst Insights Council members predict no clear winners, only losers. Some of their concerns have already been borne out.

What Type of Leader Do I Wish to Be?

Surprisingly, insufficient attention is given to the skills that produce fine leaders.

Health Care Providers Must Act Now to Address the Prescription Opioid Crisis

Combatting the opioid crisis goes beyond changing prescribing practices.

Protecting the Tired, the Poor, the Huddled Masses

After President Trump’s executive order banning refugees, the United States is no longer a bright beacon of hope to suffering people around the world.

Data Graphic: Time Frame for Trump Administration Plan on New Regulations

When will we see a comprehensive plan from the Trump administration on new health care regulations?

Data Graphic: What Can HHS Secretary Tom Price Do?

HHS Secretary Tom Price has signaled that he will review the ACA closely. What can he do to support, alter, or undermine the law?

Wanted: Talented, Energetic, Creative People to Work on Difficult, Boring Problems. No Perks.

Let’s admit the inconvenient, boring truth.

Eddie Greene04 Panel Clip Still: Financial Stewardship - Managing for Population Health or Volume, Not Both

Manage for Population Health or Volume — Not Both

If you’re doing the right thing to transform care delivery, your organization can bear the cost.

Connect

A weekly email newsletter featuring the latest actionable ideas and practical innovations from NEJM Catalyst.

Learn More »

Topics

Primary Care

101 Articles

Changing How We Pay for Primary…

Primary care accounts for more than half of the United States’ office visits, but direct…

Medicare

69 Articles

Improving Hospital Incentives with Better Cost…

Hospitals’ existing cost data could be used to substantially increase the accuracy of the Medicare…

Engaging Community Physicians in Innovation

Many physicians are simply unaware that innovation is a process and that entrepreneurship is a…

Insights Council

Have a voice. Join other health care leaders effecting change, shaping tomorrow.

Apply Now