New Ideas on Healthcare CEO Search

Posted on June 20, 2014


Daniel Sinnott, CEO of his eponymous executive search firm, wrote a thoroughly excellent piece on how healthcare CEO searches should adapt to find more appropriate candidates.

Leadership is a struggle in these difficult industry times for healthcare, and the head of an organization influences much of the hard-to-change but needs-to-change aspects of the care giving business.  A few big topics that are on the to-do list for most CEOs are the business model shift to fee-for-outcome, strategic thinking as it relates to essential partnerships with other caregivers, and shaping the internal culture of a healthcare system.

Sinnott hits on several points that undercut the success of any professional to work effectively, but especially so in healthcare.  Some suggestions:  be honest and specific about what your organization needs; generic descriptions simply will not work.  Not every CEO position is identical.  Just demographics can be challenging for candidate fits:  size of system; urban / rural; culture of the geographic footprint; NP / for-profit / municipality owned; centers of excellence…

And then there’s the dirty laundry:  financial status of system, employee culture, strategic plan / recent missteps, legal history / liability and risk exposure, portfolio and present state of physical assets, sophistication of IT infrastructure…Yes, I did list information technology.  Now that CEOs are getting fired or resigning for failed EHR implementation, it makes a lot of sense to find out what is in place before you take a job.

Sinnott’s piece is a spot-on article of considerations for systems looking for CEOs, firms like his who place executives as CEOs, and for CEO candidates.  Particularly wise are his comments on succession planning, which 90% of businesses in every industry fails to execute.  Healthcare can gain some major ground by thinking long-term, which is a freedom companies run by shareholders often don’t have.  Although many systems look outside the walls for leadership, maybe grooming and promoting from within should be considered more deeply, which would involve a succession plan and years to put that plan in place.  I have heard it said about employees at several innovative companies:  you have two jobs 1) the job you were hired to do, and 2) the job of replacing yourself.

It is refreshing to hear an experienced industry professional offer some ideas everyone in healthcare can benefit from, because his information is centered on a position so many of us rely on, directly or indirectly, to keep our own businesses growing:  CEO.