Healthcare Leadership: Essential Values & Strategies

Ben McKibbensWhen asked what values and strategies he considered most essential to healthcare organizations and healthcare leadership, Ben McKibbens, who served as the president and CEO of the Valley Baptist Health System for 25 years, offered some great perspectives:

“The first thing that came to my mind was to make sure the mission statement of the organization is worthy of everyone laboring under it.” Following that powerful, hard-hitting statement, McKibbens continued,

“If we’re going to put our lives and careers at stake with an institution, why don’t we make sure that institution has a mission that we can be proud of? And if we’re going to sync our once-in-a-lifetime lives into it, it better be worthy. It better be in agreement with our personal values and with our perspectives.”

McKibbens went on to emphasize the importance of ensuring that an organization’s mission statement isn’t merely about existing, but striving to make a difference. The overall purpose and mission of an organization needs to be established right away, and then those within the organization need to be aligned and oriented toward that goal. Once this foundational step is taken care of, McKibbens adds that another critical strategy is to plan. “As one of my first mentors said, ‘everything happens, either planned or unplanned.’ Well, I don’t know about you, but I prefer that things happen planned! If they’re unplanned, there’s stress, frustration, and it’s not handled well. If planned, thoughtful and effective results are realized.”

McKibbens continued by offering three more critical suggestions for healthcare leaders:

  • Seek good advice from respected and knowledgeable counsel and utilize it.
  • Do your homework and prepare accordingly.
  • Follow proper, fair, honest processes and proven direction.

When asked what he would tell a young person considering a career in healthcare leadership, McKibbens said that he would explain how fulfilling, worthy, exciting and memorable the career can be. He would also advise that they make sure to enroll in a credible graduate program that has a good residency requirement. The hands-on experience provided within a residency program, with respected CEOs serving as preceptors, is key to being fully prepared for a career path in healthcare administration.

McKibbens went on to encourage students—and established healthcare leaders as well—to expand their experiences and to study in areas outside of healthcare. “People need to have a broad background, as opposed to being so focused and so narrow that they are limited in areas that effect healthcare.”

This longtime, highly successful healthcare leader concluded with one last insight for those in the field of healthcare leadership: don’t take your family, especially your spouse, for granted. McKibbens reminds us, “Your spouse can play a very, very important role as part of your team. When they understand why you’re leaving early and coming home late, they can be a huge support—in so many ways.”