It’s Lonely at the Top

February 06, 2018

No matter your chosen profession, it seems from early on, we are encouraged to strive for more.  To serve in a leadership position.  To climb that ladder of success.  If you are in one of those leadership roles – or working your way towards one – congratulations!  However, if you haven’t already realized it, things can be pretty lonely at the top.

In leadership roles, we are called upon to make difficult decisions, manage an ever-dwindling budget, plan for the future, even when the path is unclear – all while having to motivate and inspire staff, Board members and volunteers.  Some days it makes that Barista job at the local Starbuck’s look pretty appealing.

So today, I want to tell you a little about Dr. Larry Goodman, the CEO of Rush University Medical Center.  I have had the good fortune to work with Larry over the years; he is an incredible leader and role model to many, myself included.  Whether you are a CEO or in an entry-level position, Larry’s roadmap to being a great leader is relatively simple, even if our jobs are not.

Be client-focused.  Despite his 18-hour days, Larry takes time every month to attend the new employee orientation sessions at Rush.  It is important to Larry that he meet every employee, from the top docs to the kitchen staff and everyone in between.  He also takes time to meet with volunteers on a regular basis.  In short, Larry treats everyone as he would treat a client.

Be transparent.  When there is news to share – good or bad – Larry shares it as soon as possible.  He is straightforward in his message, answers questions honestly and concisely, and provides follow-up communication when appropriate.

Be direct.  Just like the need to be transparent, it is often times critical to be direct.  Whether there is a financial issue, a personnel issue or a medical issue, Larry is proactive and candid with those involved.

Be positive.  While news and circumstances are not always positive, it is essential to keep an upbeat tone whenever possible.  Over the years, Larry has navigated some tremendous challenges, yet he consistently inspires and motivates his staff and volunteers.  While this means he shoulders much of the burden alone, setting a positive tone frees up the staff and volunteers to focus on what they are supposed to be doing:  their jobs.

Phone a friend.  As we all know, it’s lonely at the top.  Make sure you have a confidante outside of your organization with whom you can talk and share your ideas and frustrations.  It’s the only way to maintain those other leadership responsibilities.

Give thanks.  Finally, despite the tremendous challenges that come with his position as CEO, Larry openly and consistently shares his gratitude for the opportunity to serve Rush.  He also takes the time to thank others for the role they play in making the Medical Center such an amazing place.