Douglas MacArthur was one of the finest military leaders the United States ever produced. John Gardner, in his book On Leadership described him as a brilliant strategist, a farsighted administrator, and flamboyant to his fingertips. MacArthur’s discipline and principled leadership transcended the military. He was an effective general, statesman, administrator and corporate leader.
William Addleman Ganoe recalled in his 1962 book, MacArthur Close-up: An Unauthorized Portrait, his service to MacArthur at West Point. During World War II, he created a list of questions with General Jacob Devers, they called The MacArthur Tenets. They reflect the people-management traits he had observed in MacArthur. Widely applicable, he wrote, “I found all those who had no troubles from their charges, from General Sun Tzu in China long ago to George Eastman of Kodak fame, followed the same pattern almost to the letter.”
Do I heckle my subordinates or strengthen and encourage them?
Do I use moral courage in getting rid of subordinates who have proven themselves beyond doubt to be unfit?
Have I done all in my power by encouragement, incentive and spur to salvage the weak and erring?
Do I know by NAME and CHARACTER a maximum number of subordinates for whom I am responsible? Do I know them intimately?
Am I thoroughly familiar with the technique, necessities, objectives and administration of my job?
Do I lose my temper at individuals?
Do I act in such a way as to make my subordinates WANT to follow me?
Do I delegate tasks that should be mine?
Do I arrogate everything to myself and delegate nothing?
Do I develop my subordinates by placing on each one as much responsibility as he can stand?
Am I interested in the personal welfare of each of my subordinates, as if he were a member of my family?
Have I the calmness of voice and manner to inspire confidence, or am I inclined to irascibility and excitability?
Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?
Am I inclined to be nice to my superiors and mean to my subordinates?
Is my door open to my subordinates?
Do I think more of POSITION than JOB?
Do I correct a subordinate in the presence of others?
BORN in San Gabriel, California, in 1885, George S. Patton, Jr. was the general deemed most dangerous by the German High Command in World War II. Known for his bombastic style, it was mostly done to show confidence in himself and his troops, says author Owen Connelly.
On December 21, 1945, Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany. The following day the New York Times wrote the following editorial:
History has reached out and embraced General George Patton. His place is secure. He will be ranked in the forefront of America’s great military leaders.
Long before the war ended, Patton was a legend. Spectacular, swaggering, pistol-packing, deeply religious, and violently profane, easily moved to anger because he was first of all a fighting man, easily moved to tears because, underneath all his mannered irascibility, he had a kind heart, he was a strange combination of fire and ice. Hot in battle and ruthless, too. He was icy in his inflexibility of purpose. He was no mere hell-for-leather tank commander but a profound and thoughtful military student.
Everyone is to lead in person.
Commanders and staff members are to visit the front daily to observe, not to meddle. Praise is more valuable than blame. Your primary mission as a leader is to see with your own eyes and be seen by your troops while engaged in personal reconnaissance.
Issuing an order is worth only about 10 percent. The remaining 90 percent consists in assuring proper and vigorous execution of the order.
Plans should be simple and flexible. They should be made by the people who are going to execute them.
Information is like eggs. The fresher the better.
Every means must be used before and after combats to tell the troops what they are going to do and what they have done.
Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Men in condition do not tire.
Courage. Do not take counsel of your fears.
A diffident manner will never inspire confidence. A cold reserve cannot beget enthusiasm. There must be an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace.
Discipline is based on pride in the profession of arms, on meticulous attention to details, and on mutual respect and confidence. Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than the excitement of battle or the fear of death.
A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution ten minutes later.
We find the questions, “What makes a great leader?” and “What does great leadership mean in practice?” to be really interesting.
We have seen, for example, the following types of people as leaders: (1) people who appear to have been born to lead and excel as leaders, (2) people anointed as leaders or future leaders who had bold personalities, a certain presence and/or great charisma disappoint completely as leaders, (3) hardworking, organized people without bold personalities who organizations may not have expected to be top leaders grow into their roles and lead organizations to great results.
The greatest leaders leave an organization better than they found it. They leave it in a position to thrive long after they are gone. They have the ability to deliver results today while improving and preparing the organization for tomorrow. Great leaders, as stated by some, have a vision and plan, can build great teams, can motivate the team to pursue and achieve the plan, can take in feedback and adjust the plan as needed.
Here are seven thoughts on great leadership.
1. Great leaders are engaged, excited and passionate about success. Great leaders remain excited about what they are doing and what their team is trying to accomplish. Teams sense whether a leader is engaged or not. It does not take long to detect. It is the unusual leader who can stay enthusiastic and in top form in a position for more than 10 to 20 years; for many, the attention span is less. The phrase “lame duck leader” often applies to those who are still in office despite losing their spark. When leaders find they are losing excitement or engagement, it is time to step down from leadership or take time to rediscover themselves. An excited and engaged leader is critical to success.
We should not confuse passion and excitement with a huge or “rah-rah” personality. A great leader can have a winning personality, and most have excellent people skills, but those two things are only part of the picture. Great leaders are more than mascots or faces of a company — they are engaged with their teams. They are constantly talking to, communicating with, seeing and visiting their teams. They know what is going on with their teams, they know what is going on with their key customers, and they know what is going on with the business.
2. Great leaders build teams and the next level of leaders. The greatest accomplishment of a leader may be building the next level of leadership in a way where the leader is less needed. This is so important to the organization and requires tremendous energy from current leadership, yet it’s not always a leader’s first and foremost goal.
An elite team can go exponentially further and accomplish a great deal more than an elite leader. Anyone who has built an organization beyond a few people understands the importance of great teams and colleagues. When a high-performing team is built, the leader remains important. However, more and more, you can identify a great leader or manager by how special their team is. When a team is magnificent, it is a lot easier to be a great leader or manager. A core concept in Jim Collins’ Good to Great is to build great teams and then set plans. If one has great people, a company or team can then accomplish all kinds of things.
There is a common misconception that leaders welcome their team’s elite performance because it means the leader can work less. We find this could not be further from the truth. Great leaders know that nobody likes working harder than their boss. This adage holds true whether a leader has been in the field for five years or 50. The scope and role of the leader may change as the team grows more adept, elite and accomplished. Exceptional leaders give others space to lead, opportunities to shine and chances to succeed, but this should not be misinterpreted as leaders stepping away out of ambivalence or putting their feet up.
3. Great leaders have big goals and set clear plans. Great leaders set goals for their teams and organizations that are exciting, interesting and far bigger than themselves. The leader needs a goal that one can point to as, “This is what we are trying to be,” or, “This is what we are trying to accomplish.” There’s nothing worse than leaders who transparently appear to get ahead for themselves or accomplish their own goals versus the organization’s or team’s goals.
The late Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs and former GE CEO Jack Welch are examples of great leaders who set big goals. Mr. Welch had the core goal to be No. 1 or No. 2 in any market — or not be in the market at all. It is also critical that the goal is well communicated to the team and that key decisions are consistent with the goal. No plan or strategy is perfect. However, most organizations and teams do far better with a plan and strategy than without. Often, the plan is imperfect but adjusted over time. Either way, in nearly every situation, an imperfect plan is far superior to no plan.
4. Great leaders generally don’t micromanage. High-caliber leaders develop great leaders and teams and allow their teams to excel, perform and grow. They constantly look at benchmarks, hold people accountable and follow up with them. However, on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis, their teams are given lots of latitude and autonomy. This is coupled with follow-up and looking at what is accomplished. Warren Buffett may be the world’s best example of a leader who has great CEOs, holds them accountable and doesn’t micromanage them.
Some of the best leaders we have seen recognize when they have an amazing leader working with them. In those situations, the best of leaders can set their egos aside and largely allow the next in line to take credit and lead.
5. Great leaders praise often and recognize contributions. A great leader understands that part of team-building is constantly looking for what people are doing well and encouraging more of it. Great leaders provide praise, recognize what is done well and motivate more of that to be done. They look for what people do exceptionally well, and they look to promote those doing great things. They are constantly looking for the next opportunity for people.
6. Great leaders are not afraid to make hard personnel decisions. The best leaders understand that not everyone is a fit for every job. They are not willing to tolerate mediocrity or toxicity. This doesn’t mean they have a quick trigger. It does mean that they constantly compare current performance to great performance and try to fit people in spots where their performance can excel. For example, someone who is not great at something might be given another try at a different role where they may shine. One of the best leaders I ever witnessed subscribed to the view that it was very hard to change people. He counseled to be fair and patient, but that it was easier to change the person than change a person. In essence, sometimes it’s easier to replace a person than change how a person behaves.
7. Great leaders are emotionally mature. Great leaders do not fly off the handle or make rash decisions, but they do follow their instincts. A remarkable leader does not react to every issue with a great deal of stress. Rather, he or she can take things in, move forward and keep a team on board. A leader’s ability to manage emotions — both his or her own and those of team members — is critical. While great leaders often act with urgency and intent, they too embrace common sense approaches of “sleep on it” or “no sudden movements” when faced with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. They recognize the repercussions of their decisions and movements, and in turn give them the time, thought and reflection they deserve.
A lot of communication in the workplace is conducted electronically. However, it is essential for hospital and health system leaders to have face-to-face conversations with employees in some situations.
Becker’s asked healthcare executives to share the interactions they prioritize when they’re in person at their organizations. Many expressed their preference for the deeper connections in-person interactions allow, citing inspiration and team building as reasons to facilitate face-to-face communication. Below are their responses:
Russell F. Cox. President and CEO of Norton Healthcare (Louisville, Ky.): Healthcare, by its very nature, requires in-person interactions.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we made a quick and successful shift to virtual visits for the safety of our patients and providers. This enabled patients with a variety of time and transportation constraints to receive convenient care from a trusted provider. However, telemedicine will never completely replace in-person visits, and the opportunity for our patients and community to interact in-person with our patient care providers is very important to me, and to our team.
And, although the pandemic created the need for virtual meetings, I have always prioritized in-person interactions and meetings with all team members. Whether that be rounding in our hospitals and facilities, holding in-person meetings, celebrating employee accomplishments or milestones, or dropping by one of our community vaccine or testing centers — web meetings will never replace what can be accomplished face to face. It became even more important to interact in person with our caregivers and employees during the pandemic. It was important to show my support for their hard work and extraordinary sacrifices during this time. I’m thankful that with the vaccine, more in-person events, with proper safety precautions, are resuming.
Our motto has been and continues to be: Stay safe. Keep the faith.
Jim Dunn, PhD. Executive Vice President and Chief People and Culture Officer of Atrium Health (Charlotte, N.C.): Recognition is part of our organizational DNA, and in-person delivery is an essential component of that — especially as we continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing our teammates love is the “Surprise Patrol,” which we employ for some of our most special and meaningful awards, such as our annual Pinnacle Award — the highest award given by our organization to those who best exemplify our Culture Commitments: Belong, Work as One, Trust, Innovate and Excellence. Executives, leaders, teammates and loved ones come together to celebrate honorees with balloons, cupcakes, cheers and even a few happy tears. Our honorees are shocked, uplifted and proud to be recognized in-person for their outstanding accomplishments, and our “Surprise Patrol” participants are honored to be a part of such a special moment. Whether we’re celebrating small wins, personal successes, birthdays or prestigious awards, in-person recognition — where and when possible — is a vital part of the teammate experience and culture at Atrium Health.
Robert Gardner. CEO of Banner Ironwood Medical Center (Queen Creek, Ariz.) and Banner Goldfield Medical Center (Apache Junction, Ariz.): Over the past few years in particular, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the differences between motivation and inspiration. More often than not, it seems like leaders don’t know the differences and often confuse the two as being synonymous or interchangeable. Put in overly simplified terms, I see motivation as being the metaphorical carrot or the stick. We can motivate with reward (aka the carrot) and with discipline (aka the stick), and both are used frequently in life. Motivation tends to be more surface level. However, inspiration is something much deeper, more intimate, and therefore much more complex. Inspiration is getting to a point of genuinely desiring to change, do more, be better, etc.
For me, knowing the differences is critical when it comes to prioritizing being in person in the workplace. Virtual meetings, emails, newsletters and other forms of electronic communication can work incredibly well when it comes to items of motivation; and believe me, there are plenty of these items. However, when it comes time to inspire the team, I heavily prioritize these meetings to take place in person. Items that fall into this category will be mission-critical initiatives and overall reminders on living our mission, purpose values, etc. It’s so ironic to me that despite the increasing complexity, regulation, bureaucracy and proverbial red tape that healthcare has become famous for, that an inspirational dose of simplicity has more effect on change than any other bestseller leadership book on how to motivate performance through some sort of complicated multistep process.
Brian Koppy. Chief Financial Officer of Cano Health (Miami): As a rapidly growing primary care provider, we have found that face-to-face interactions at our offices are as essential as they are in our medical centers. Our providers provide the best care when they see patients in person because it builds lifelong bonds that improve patient outcomes. In our offices, our team members feel more connected and integrated into the Cano Health family when we are together, both formally and informally. This, of course, does not mean we do not have a flexible work environment, which we do. It simply means our priority is on the employee benefits and outcomes that come from working in the office.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we moved many corporate employees to remote work and moved about 95 percent of our patient interactions to televisits. That did not last long, however. Within a month or two, our employees were asking to come back to the office. Our medical centers never closed their doors, and our visits rapidly returned to mostly in person.
It’s the seemingly inconsequential daily interactions that often have the greatest impact on a company’s employees and their connection to the mission, values and culture of the organization. The quick stop-ins to someone’s workstation, the chance hallway encounters, the team lunches — these are so important in developing relationships and, in turn, maximizing efficiency. Employees who know and personally interact with each other work better together. They discuss ideas, they strategize freely, and they execute on the company’s goals together and more effectively.
At Cano Health, our high-touch approach to primary care is key to our success. And we believe that daily face-to-face interactions among employees are equally important to create a rewarding experience for our employees, but also expanding Cano Health’s services across the country.
Christopher O’Connor. President and incoming CEO of Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health:We are prioritizing one-on-one meetings and small groups. With our vaccination mandate, we feel it is critical to have that in-person contact and fill that void that video can’t replicate. This is a relationship business, and spending the time to build and nurture those relationships is critical.
Thomas J. Senker. President of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center (Olney, Md.): Before and especially during the pandemic our priority has been the well-being and engagement of our front-line staff and essential personnel. And while in-person activities have been limited, our executive team makes regular rounds visiting each unit, expressing gratitude, providing snacks and refreshments, and sharing important hospital updates directly. We believe these face-to-face interactions are critical opportunities to gain feedback and focus on areas of improvement across different areas of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center’s operations.
What makes someone extraordinary? As a retired FBI agent with more than 40 years of studying human behavior and performance, no question has captivated me more.
Extraordinary people have a wisdom and way of being that inspires and commands respect. They energize you with their wisdom and empathy. You want them to be your friend, neighbor, co-worker, manager, mentor or community leader.
The 5 traits of extraordinary people
Surprisingly, the qualities that make these people stand out aren’t related to their level of education, income or talents (say, in athletics or art or business).
As it turns out, based on thousands of observations, there are five traits that set exceptional individuals apart from everyone else — but you must have the entire set, and not just one or a few.
I call them “The Five Domains of Exceptional People”:
Self-mastery brings out your best in whatever you do through dedication, curiosity and adaptability.
Usain Bolt, the fastest human to ever live, didn’t achieve that status merely through athletic ability. He achieved it through self-mastery: He learned, sacrificed, worked hard and remained diligently focused. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, did the same.
But another side to self-mastery is knowing our emotions, strengths and, more importantly, our weaknesses. By understanding ourselves, we know things like when others should take the lead, when today is not our day or when we need to confront our demons.
Start attaining self-mastery by asking:
- What areas need attention?
- What knowledge, training or skills will help me pursue my goals?
- What can I do now to initiate change?
- How can I better myself through books, mentors, organizations, video tutorials or online classes?
We’re taught to look, but not to observe. We look to see if we can cross the street safely or what supermarket line is moving the fastest. It’s a passive experience that’s useful, but may not provide complete information.
Observing, on the other hand, is active; it requires effort, but the results are more enlightening. It’s about using all our senses to decode the world in real time for a more informed understanding of our environment and of others.
By working as an FBI agent and as an ethologist, I’ve developed my sensitivity for reading the needs, wants, desires, concerns and preferences of others — all crucial information for understanding and communicating with people.
The most observational people have a skill set that many lack. They instantly know:
- What they are seeking and whether there may be multiple explanations.
- How context and/or culture factors in.
- How they can validate their observations and conclusions.
- How to prioritize, separating the inconsequential from the essential.
We communicate constantly. Do it right and people will adore you. Do it wrong and you create doubt, indifference, even anger.
Exceptional communication skills elevate the quality of your relationships. It’s not about communicating perfectly, but rather effectively — and that builds trust. Here’s how:
- Address emotions first. We cannot think or communicate clearly until emotions are dealt with. This is where reading body language is helpful.
- Build rapport through caring and kindness. It can be verbal or nonverbal: a wave or an outstretched hand to acknowledge or welcome. Mirroring your companion’s gestures goes far.
- Be prompt. Answering emails and calls promptly shows that you value others. Bad news shouldn’t be delayed, nor should gratitude and affirmation.
- Listen to validate. Listen not only for what is said, but also in what order and how often certain words are mentioned. Repetition of a topic, for example, can shed light on unresolved or underlying problems.
Our actions are the nonverbals that show who we are, what’s important to us and how we feel about others.
You can’t fully master this trait without the previous three: Self-mastery prepares us for possible actions to take based on what’s happening; observation allows us to understand the situation in context so we can act appropriately; communication allows us to give and receive the information and support to act.
Exceptional individuals weigh four major factors when making decisions:
- Do my actions build trust?
- Do my actions add value?
- Do my actions positively influence or inspire?
- Do my actions benefit others?
5. Psychological Comfort
Psychological comfort is a state where our biological and emotional needs and preferences are met.
It forms the bedrock of our mental and physical health, driving everything from our relationship choices to the brands we buy. We thrive when we have psychological comfort, and it’s especially essential in difficult times.
Since we’re primed to receive psychological comfort, it doesn’t take a grand gesture — it just takes the right one. It could be a calm voice, a kind word, an acknowledgment, a thank you note, a welcoming smile or suggesting a break.
Psychological comfort is where self-mastery, observation, communication and action join forces, helping you recognize and provide what best reduces unwanted emotions like stress, fear or apprehension.
It’s simple: In the 21st century, whoever provides the most psychological comfort wins.
A physician leader asked recently whether we saw many health system executive teams work remotely throughout the pandemic. At her system, nearly every non-clinical leader worked mostly from home. “It seemed like two of our executives spent most of last year at their vacation homes,” she shared. “I know that we were being socially distant, but when our CEO held a virtual town hall from his beach house, it felt really tone deaf to our doctors and nurses.” In our experience, we saw most leaders spending many days in the office, even if some meetings were on Zoom. One
CEO mentioned he felt compelled to come to his office, even if it meant working alone: “If the people working on the front lines came in, I felt I needed to come in. And in the rare case someone needed to connect in person, they knew I was there.” There is power in just being visible to caregivers.
One recently retired CEO shared that he knew colleagues who rarely stepped into a hospital during the pandemic, missing a critical leadership opportunity. “No one expects the CEO to be hanging out in the COVID unit,” he shared.
“But being in our facilities, not just in the office, to hear directly from frontline workers and express gratitude, was so important—and caregivers remember that.” Now fully vaccinated, most health system leadership teams are back in the office. To remain competitive, health systems will likely need to create models that allow some non-clinical associates to work virtually—which will require evolution of cultures long centered around in-person collaboration.