Over the last 22 years, I had the opportunity to serve various healthcare institutions in the Midwest and see tremendous change in a ridiculously complex industry.

My leadership journey took me from CIO to interim president of one of the hospitals in our health system. It was an opportunity that was a surprise, and that created a ripple of opportunity throughout the IT organization.  I believe I was given this opportunity because of my previous leadership experience, as well as being at the right place at the right time, and having a team that could support such a change. Through the transition, I learned a great deal about leadership development.

I experienced hectic times throughout my healthcare IT career. As busy as I thought one year would be, the next was busier and more complex – it was a cycle that never stopped. Without solid leadership, the pace and complexity chewed up great people and spit them out. I had years in which I led well, and years where I had regrets and could have done so much better.

What did those years teach me, and how might that apply to you?

Your success and future potential depends on your ability to develop people who will eventually replace you. Have you ever thought about that in a critical manner? If you cannot replicate your skills in someone who currently works for you, then how will you ever convince anyone that you could be promoted internally?

I realize that my 18-year tenure at Beacon Health System was longer than the norm. When I accepted the CIO position, the advice I received from recruiters and the previous CIO was, “It’s going to probably only be a 3-year run, so be sure to keep your feelers out.”

I recall speaking with other CIOs who were bouncing from hospital to hospital, frustrated with “the system” or “unrealistic goals and budgets.” Some moved because their previous employer chose to listen to bad advice and remove a good person, while other CIOs moved because they thought it was their opportunity to advance to a larger system.

Too frequently, we believe that our only chance for promotion is to bounce to another organization in another region instead of sticking it out and watching for other unique opportunities within our own organizations. While some situations are untenable and job transitions are a necessary evil, the benefits of longevity significantly outweigh the practice of churning such an important position as a CIO.

Your ability to be seen as someone who can grow to accept new opportunities can be measured by how well you are replicating your skills in those who report to you. Are you training, supporting and engaging up and coming leaders, or are you hoarding information?

One of the leaders to whom I reported for many years told me that his job was to have everyone that reported to him do a portion of his job; that freed him up to do even greater things and enabled others to learn his job. Follow that lead; spend time with your up and coming leaders, share every bit of knowledge you can, and replicate yourself in future leaders. Give them the freedom to take what they have learned from you and apply it. Give them freedom to do it better than you. Acknowledge their achievements and that they have done a portion of your job better than you have. 

In my case, unselfishly sharing information and developing leaders helped to create the opportunity to transition from CIO to interim president of one of the hospitals we were supporting. When I decided to transition away from healthcare, the person into whom I poured my knowledge and experience for years was selected as the permanent CIO, enabling the health system to quickly continue on a familiar track and save tens of thousands of dollars in recruiting fees and turnover headaches.

Pour yourself into your future leaders to create opportunity for your own leadership growth; you might be surprised how far it will take you.

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