They say that “Transformational leadership” is a style of leadership where the leader is charged with identifying the needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of the group. I have observed and met brilliant leaders in my career and the one common trait that I observed from these leaders was that they never talked about themselves as individuals, rather, always about the team, the people and the patients that they serve. They seem to have a gift, the ability to articulate their stories in a very inspiring and unassuming way to really, truly inspire you directly and indirectly.

“Innovation is not just developing a new idea or a new way, but also using an existing way better”

Dr. Kendra Cherry mentioned a trait “Individualized consideration” that is a subcomponent of transformational leadership. This is translated as the ability to offer support and encouragement to individual followers. How does one go about doing this effectively? And as followers, what do they need from their leaders to feel this support and encouragement?

In my world, some things that I try very hard to be consistent in are fairly straight forward – listen actively and always provide uninterrupted attention to those who I interact with. Phones are off, laptops put away and door is closed, resulting in a true face to face discussion, or I should even call it collaboration between two parties to form better thoughts and establish a better solution to the issue at hand. If not issues, then at least exchange of mutually understandable thoughts. I ask myself at times if this is my path toward becoming a transformational leader. Is it? It starts with how we engage people, right?

Your success as a leader should be based on the success of your people. Healthcare translates to people care. It is all about the people. People you work with and those people that you serve/service. There is a common question that I ask when I meet a leader: “As a leader, how do you want to be remembered by?”. It’s interesting to watch the body language as they think about this question, but even more interesting to actually hear their answers. I have heard answers that range from “successful implementation of an EMR” to “Enabling cost savings in the millions” to “establishing optimization metrics” to “just did good things for people”.

However, what really gets my ear is the story behind each answer. As an example, there always is an incredible story behind every “implementation of an EMR” – the selection process, planning, cultural formation and transformation. Behind every story there is how people were impacted, both directly & indirectly – Leaders rising up to the occasion, new relationships forming, and of course, those consequences that occur during a big, transformational change. When they are followed up with another question – “As a leader, what could have you don’t more for the people?”, you usually get a pause and also a look of regret. That look of regret coming from those things that are beyond what a

single individual can do. That grey area where there is no right or wrong answer. But why would there be regret especially if that individual believe he or she did EVERYTHING they can for the organization and their people? It’s an answer that I’m trying to discover myself.

“We lose when we try to find that perfect answer”

A mentor once told me that we lose when we try to find that perfect answer. The key lies in the effort to fix things and how much you learn from the effort so that you can apply these best practices in the future. Life is never black and white.

Collaboration is innovation. I believe healthcare can be tricky because of its dynamic nature, and the social economic and government pressures we face every day. I think one of the biggest steps we all can take is to truly collaborate with each other so that we stop reinventing the wheel. Innovation is not just developing a new idea or a way, but also using an existing way better. How do we learn from each other NOT to find an absolute answer to a problem, but to share stories to find ways to support each other that will enable us to better navigate our own waters?

With the way social networks have evolved, we have no excuse in NOT collaborating. Access to information instantly is forcing professionals in our industry to streamline our operations, and put a great premium on quality. This also translate to our patients having access to more information than ever. They are now more informed and they have more options than ever before.

So, how do we stay ahead of all this? How do we continue to meet the expectations of our customers?

One thing I do know for sure is that this will be beyond what a single individual can do.

Curt Kwak, CIO at Proliance Surgeons

Before Proliance Surgeons, He led Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Wahealthplanfinder.org), Prior to that he was regional CIO at Providence Health & Services. Outside office, Curt enjoys great NW cuisine, the Seattle Seahawks, and spending time with his family.