The Leadership Linchpin – Insights from AONE 2014

There is one common denominator in navigating the road to enhanced healthcare delivery and access – Strong Leadership.

Amid the political and cultural firestorm that is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this is an unwavering imperative for all healthcare organizations to deliver the best care possible. Regardless of your feelings on the ACA and its current state, we can all agree that healthcare redesign is necessary. This transformation requires a call to action from all levels within hospitals and health systems, helmed by capable and vigilant stewards.

This past week, a congregation of those capable executives descended on Orlando to attend the AONE 2014: Inspiring Leadership conference. The American Organization of NurseExecutives’ mission: to inspire change in their 9,000 strong, nursing membership community in the face of a changing healthcare landscape; to evangelize the need for strong stewardship that will deliver quality care and patient satisfaction in the most efficient way possible.

As a healthcare executive who was fortunate enough to attend, I was particularly impressed with AONE’s approach to inspiration this year. Like many conferences, the content was rich with presentations from respected thought leaders and industry experts ranging from application of Meaningful Use in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), to better dissemination of clinical outcomes in AONE’s Care Innovation & Transformation Program. But I was most moved by the metaphorical emphasis on the meaning of leadership. Regardless of your industry, political or religious persuasion, there needs to be a capable “conductor” at the forefront of every mission—to be a vehicle of change and continuous improvement.


Great Leaders Awaken Possibility 
Dissecting the true meaning of leadership could not have been better articulated by AONE’s keynote speaker – Benjamin Zander. Mr. Zander is a world-famous Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and co-author of The Art of Possibility. His unique perspective on leadership through the metaphorical use of conducting classical music and engaging an audience was inspiring in its own right. At the heart of his talk is the notion that great leaders (“conductors”) awaken the possibility of creativity in others to inspire productivity.

Leaders must be passionate about their craft, but as equally dedicated to guiding others to achieve their collective goals. To that end, a leader must be a confident dreamer; confident in their ability to articulate the general tenets of his or her dream, and effective enough to engage others to buy-in and bring it to fruition. He quipped that Martin Luther King Jr. would not have had the iconic impact on society if he had merely stated, “I have a dream, but I am not sure if others will be up to it.”

Zander, a proven leader and world-renown interpreter of Beethoven and composer Gustav Mahler, has provided oversight to the production of musical masterpieces for decades. He has led highly trained individual musicians to coalesce into an effective whole. Zander draws parallels to the healthcare leaders that must shepherd their organizations forward. At the core of his message: people have basic human instincts that evoke passion and desire—in the way classical music does for him—and they need to be tapped into. These leaders will take others on a journey of possibility.

This metaphor transcended and challenged a group of healthcare executives to explore new possibilities in navigating their respective journeys—a fresh perspective to mentor and guide their teams in delivering exceptional care in the new age of healthcare.