Leadership
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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.

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