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
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.

Data Graphic: The ACA Repeal Update

NEJM Catalyst’s regular review of proposed health care legislation as it compares to the Affordable Care Act.

Data Graphic: How the American Health Care Act Will Impact Americans

Older, low-income consumers are the biggest losers when it comes to impact on premiums.

Performance Training and Public Health for Physician Burnout

For too long, physicians have operated under the belief that their obligation to patients comes at any cost, even when this cost is their own health.

Lessons in Leadership: Nick Restrepo

What difference can one individual make? Plenty. Two doctor leaders discuss the impact one colleague’s bequest — earmarked for physician development — has had on their institution’s quality and safety program.

My Favorite Slide: The Entrepreneurial Gap Applied to Health Care

When physicians become accountable for results beyond their immediate control, they are forced to become entrepreneurs for better health care.

Lessons in Leadership: Amy Compton-Phillips

A physician executive recalls what she learned from an assessment of her leadership style early in her career and challenges as a woman leader in a traditionally male-dominated profession.

Lessons in Leadership: James Reinertsen

A former hospital system CEO reflects on the challenge of getting individual hospitals to function as a true system.

Data Graphic: What’s Easy and Hard About Changing the ACA

On the Affordable Care Act road map to repeal, some quick options are available, but comprehensive replacement will take time and political compromise.

Lessons in Leadership: Michael Shabot

Multi-hospital Memorial Hermann Health System’s CMO married the system’s demonstrated operational excellence with an audacious quality and safety agenda.

Connect

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

Learn More »

Topics

Health Care — A Final Frontier…

Design must move beyond narrow projects and encompass complex systems.

Leading Transformation

127 Articles

How CareMore Embraced Medicaid

There isn’t a population of patients who needs a culture of caring more than those…

Leading Teams

77 Articles

Lessons in Leadership: Nick Restrepo

What difference can one individual make? Plenty. Two doctor leaders discuss the impact one colleague’s…

Insights Council

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

Apply Now