Strategies for Leadership Development

The purpose of leadership is to create more leaders not more followers. Any leader, amidst all his or her responsibilities, should ensure their organization has a robust leadership development program that strengthens existing and emerging talent to assume roles of greater responsibility.

As a former military officer, especially in combat, there was an ever-looming reality that I could be injured or killed in the next enemy engagement and the next ranking soldier had to be prepared to assume command. If I really cared about my unit and the soldiers in it, then it was imperative that I prepared them to accept that role or as its taught at West Point “when in charge, take charge.” I applied that same attitude and spirit in over 20 years of healthcare experience as a senior executive to develop and drive new and aspiring leaders to achieve extraordinary results.

This is a dynamic that is taking place across the healthcare industry in North Texas. There are a number of seasoned and newly minted leaders in the region building new businesses and generating momentum in existing ones. Simultaneously, these business managers are creating high performing teams and revving up their respective organizational talent engines.

Modern Healthcare recently recognized three healthcare leaders in North Texas – Joel Allison, Trevor Fetter, and Doug Hawthorne in the top 100 of Most Influential People in Healthcare. It would be no stretch to say each of them in their own right has infused the purpose of leadership within their respective organizations.

Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to interact with numerous levels of management from each of the organizations led by these gentleman and it’s very clear they have established cultures of empowerment, engagement and expectations of winning in the ever-evolving healthcare market. The various levels of managers are strategic, change agile, focused and innovative. You quickly realize Messrs. Allison, Fetter, and Hawthorne have identified and cultivated emerging talent at every level within their organizations. It makes for a strong case that by investing in high achieving colleagues you may gain a competitive advantage.

Empowerment is demonstrated in the stories I hear from the business leaders involved with the intense day-to-day working of their organizations. Given the autonomy to take on risk and to make tough decisions that will enhance the quality of care provided and subsequently drive innovative thinking and collaboration across functions.

Managers effectively communicate expectations, and identify the appropriate tools and resources by listening and implementing feedback from front-line employees. When employees have a clear understanding of expectations and organizational objectives, and they are equipped with the necessary resources to do their best everyday, the level of engagement improves and so does productivity.

Most important, is the penetrating idea that solutions are being developed by empowered and engaged colleagues from the front-line to the C-suite which means that everyone has the potential to participate and share their perspective. It’s that culture of inclusiveness that builds cohesiveness and a fundamental desire to learn and grow as a valued member of the business.

The concept of growth moves to reality that colleagues at various levels in the organization have the talent and potential that needs to be developed. When every interested individual has the opportunity to contribute it’s that involvement that will make a healthcare team perform. A collective effort will reduce and eventually solve many of the challenges facing providers. It also fosters a winning culture even under difficult odds.

A leadership development program that teaches the requisite skills to be successful such as strategic planning, emotional intelligence, cross functional leadership, network building, organizational effectiveness, problem solving, and change management (just to name a few) exists in many of the businesses in our area. However, there remains an opportunity to further expand and support the development of leaders across our region by partnering and aligning with private, public and professional organizations. The successful leaders of the future will have the potential to emerge from any level and any business with the appropriate development.

An acceleration of this type of purposeful leadership that focuses on developing colleagues at every level will make a tremendous difference in how healthcare is transformed regionally and statewide. When an organization creates an environment that promotes development and encourages it at every level, the proverbial engine that will bring future leaders front, center and onward will help drive more positive outcomes within the healthcare industry. Please share your thoughts with me, as I’d like to hear your ideas.

Russ Williamson is the president and CEO of the Health Industry Council of North Texas and is a certified Strengths Performance Coach by The Gallup Organization. Contact him at