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President-Elect Obama and Hospital Leadership

November 5th, 2008

by Tony Chen

Regardless of your political affiliation, yesterday was a historical moment; we have just elected the first African-American President of the United States. As I stayed up to watch Senator Barack Obama's speech after two long years of campaigning, I was struck by three main thoughts while putting on my hospital impact blogger hat:

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1. Health care may not be the No.1 issue for voters, but it's still a top 3 issue. It had been the No. 1 issue for voters for a few years (around 2005), but then the Iraq War understandably took the spotlight. Health care was slowly resurfacing as an issue again when this credit/financial tsunami overwhelmed it. As such, some experts agree that we won't see any major legislation (except maybe to reduce Medicare reimbursement, of course) over the next few years.

2. Obama's leadership style is the new way to lead. I'm not talking about his policies (some of which I respectfully disagree with), I'm talking about a certain style of leadership. I was listening to Obama speak last night from a lot of different perspectives--as a citizen, as a father and also as a student of leadership. In this post-modern era, as well as in our hospital environment, can we assume that the days of "command-and-control" hierarchy over? Even the Harvard Business Review recently observed that the "political-style" of leadership is increasingly being adopted by corporate America. Striving for collaboration, listening to various perspectives, empowering people to feel ownership are great ways to motivate this generation of folks. Good money engenders job satisfaction, but owning a higher purpose/cause engenders passionate loyalty. This may take longer to establish, but it multiplies benefits down the road.

3. Obama's use of technology and the internet was ingenious. In some sense, this is an outflow of the leadership style I just discussed. It requires more collaboration, more communication, more transparency, and more work. And it also allowed for more participation, more creativity and more two-way communication between the campaign and its followers, especially the younger crowd. Most hospitals probably don't think about the 18 to 29 segment as a target age group to focus on, but as more technology arrives on the scene, we'll need to be more tech-savvy about how this next generation lives. The answer to the pesky questions of medication compliance and lifestyle management will one day be found in technology that is already integrated into people's lives.

4. Whew! I'm glad that campaign is over.

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