To set up his talk on the Value of Leadership Within Healthcare Systems at the end of the third day of the inaugural RLI, James Thrall, MD, recited a litany of challenges facing radiology leaders and then shared one of the most valuable things he had learned as the undisputed great leader of one of the world’s leading hospitals.
“It is important to be perceived as an institutional player,” he offers. “I’ve come to the point of view that between perception and reality, in reality, there is no reality, there is only perception. One hundred good deeds objectively performed on behalf of the institution carry less weight than being perceived as an institutional leader, understanding institutional goals, and being perceived as having a grasp of a bigger picture than just radiology.”
Thrall told attendees that they must be perceived as committed to quality and efficiency and as having good business acumen. “You will know if you have succeeded if you are invited to be part of institutional decision-making, and institutional planning,” he states.
In unpacking that Sphinx-like riddle, Thrall distilled the leadership lessons he learned over his journey from “innocent lamb” to “Father Time”, sharing what he thought then and what he thinks now about five key leadership topics: corporate culture, human resources, mentoring, self knowledge, organizational IQ, and business acumen.
That talk will be covered in more depth in a future issue of Radiology Business Journal, but I did want to pass on his pearls on corporate culture.
When he started his career, Thrall thought corporate culture was the artwork in the lobby and support of the local symphony.
What Thrall knows now is that culture eats strategy for lunch. “Culture eats rules and policy for lunch,” he adds. “It is the single most important leadership challenge.”
Begin with a mission, he advises, a broad statement of organizational goals. Add vision, which Thrall described as more specific statement of how the organization will achieve the goals. Spend time on values by establishing a commitment to quality and defining how people will be treated.
Finally, establish guiding principles to define operational and business practices and how success will be judged.
“A strong positive culture lubricates all aspects of organizational life,” he emphasizes, including guiding behavior, promoting cooperation and trust, and allowing problem solving. “If you find yourself writing rules, you are probably failing.”
If your practice, department, institution does not have a culture, build one.