Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt of our new gender parity research, developed in partnership with Health Evolution.
Welcome to the latest edition of Oliver Wyman’s Women in Healthcare Leadership initiative. Thanks to our Health Evolution Summit partnership, we interviewed nine female leaders who are industry key leaders and board members in their fields.
These women are driving big change in a complex and hugely challenged industry. Our report merely captures a snapshot of their diverse industry perspectives, rich experiences, and breakthrough leadership styles. We’re proud to feature them to help other (male and female) leaders — those at the top, those on their way to the top, and those beginning to tap into their true potential — drive the future of an industry in transformation in their own ways.
Our interviewees spoke openly about their leadership styles, industry challenges, and “truths.” They universally chose to prove themselves early on in their careers, tackle hard things by embracing a cauldron of intellectual energy, find connections between markedly different things, remain people-focused, and spend more time thinking about where a company can be in five to ten years and then mapping backward.
SIX LEADERSHIP TRAITS WOMEN WHO DEFY THE C-SUITE ODDS TEND TO HAVE IN COMMON:
1. Strategically embrace the unknown
2. Have a different kind of leadership style and philosophy
3. Focus hard on a unified clarity of vision, purpose, and values
4. Translate ideas clearly and empower others along the way
5. Be results-driven, accountable, and unafraid of making hard decisions
6. Stay engaged, nudge others, and coach teams to success
President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
Every company I’ve worked for had corporate values, which were both really critical and sometimes really vague. So, one of the first things I did when I became CEO of Blue Cross was to define specific expectations or “values in action” to be clear on HOW to lead and, frankly, how to act.
CEO Emeritus, Tufts Medical Center
I surround myself with people smarter than me. I’m not a nurse or an MBA, so I knew I needed to surround myself with people who had those skills and backgrounds and who could teach me. You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.
President and CEO, Carilion Clinic
If you want to become a leader, you must seek out relationships where people provide honest feedback, constructive suggestions, and encouragement. People too often don’t want to hear words that make them think — or rethink — how they do things.
President, Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
Gone are the days when leaders want to be told only what they want to hear. Opportunities stem from leaders who prefer surrounding themselves with people who challenge them, with people who speak up, and with people who hold different views. Transformation starts at the top in this way.
Penny Wheeler, MD
President and CEO, Allina Health
My first job was on the grounds crew of a country club. I was the only female. I bent over backward to make sure they knew I could work harder than anybody they knew.
President and CEO, EmblemHealth
You must find joy in your work. It’s less about titles and more about what roles I find engaging, challenging, interesting, and fun.
Mandy Cohen, MD
Secretary, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
Some organizations are so value-oriented and vision-oriented, they can’t translate this into practical tools. Others are so results-oriented, they ruin relationships or dismantle important longer-term strategic goals. You must know what results you want and how to interact with your team to achieve long-term sustained success.
Nadja West, MD
US Army Lieutenant General, Retired
As a leader, you have to be transparent and communicate with your team. Tell them what’s going on. If you have to lay someone off, you have to be able to tell them, be honest, and explain and provide as much information you can as to the why. And then if possible, be prepared to help them through that.
Former President and CEO, Ancestry
The work of a CEO is to think strategically, tactically and operationally — it’s about ensuring that everything is aligned and connected. It also requires a fundamental curiosity to challenge and push boundaries to improve performance.