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In Demand: A Different Kind of CEO

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, May 23, 2014

Hospital CEO has been the dream job for healthcare administrators for decades. But the top job increasingly isn't the top anymore, as organizations merge, holding companies morph into operating companies, and metrics for success change. Can you adapt?

Hospital CEO has been the dream job toward which thousands of healthcare administrators have strived for decades. Opportunities for advancement have usually been good, and jobs at the top have been relatively plentiful and relatively stable, for at least a couple of generations. The role of hospital CEO has always carried status—in many communities, the hospital CEO leads the area's largest employer, after all. You're considered a pillar of your community, and the remuneration hasn't been bad, either.

At that level, you get to run the show, make strategic decisions, and demonstrate your skills, often acquired over decades in lower levels of responsibility in that organization or others.

But the pipeline to the top might be drying up, or at least not running anywhere close to the capacity it did until recently. Part of that is because the top job increasingly isn't the top anymore, as smaller organizations continue the quickening pace toward consolidation with larger and larger partners. Even in organizations that have already been subsumed into larger organizations, the freedom to operate independently of the larger organization is rapidly being constrained as those holding companies morph into operating companies.

So now, all of those positive attributes of the hospital CEO job are in flux.

Are hospital CEOs becoming an endangered species?

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2 comments on "In Demand: A Different Kind of CEO"


Dr. Ed L Hansen (5/29/2014 at 2:44 PM)
As a CEO in hospitals and health systems for almost two decades, I have seen my own evolution, however subtle, over time. My role has evolved from being very being the expected endpoint decision-maker to being the group process facilitator. While once my value rested in being able to make the call that everyone acted upon, today my value lies in facilitating the alignment of internal and external constituencies. I have come to appreciate that the role requires demonstrated "respect" for each constituency and authentic regard for their positions and the contribution each makes to the delivery of the organizations products and services. CEO of today and the future must understand their role as coach/facilitator and apply their skills toward helping constituencies align and perform in mutual interest. Regards, Ed

Nadine Baarstad (5/28/2014 at 3:16 PM)
Thanks for this article. It addresses an ongoing shift in the role of the CEO at hospitals and health systems. And, as we continue to move towards a "retail" environment in healthcare, certain statistics are demonstrating that newly opened C-suite positions are being filled by professionals that come with experience outside of the healthcare arena. One area you did not address is the CEO's new imperative as the steward of the "brand." It's no longer enough to focus entirely on operations and payment structures, but realize that the expression of your brand to consumers is equally important.ur newest Red Paper titled "The CEO's New Imperative[INVALID]Guiding the Brand Through Disruptive Change" takes an in-depth look at this topic.