Are You a Leader or a Jerk?

My Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Chris Hughes, and I have been discussing leadership and communication, as we promote the development of effective behavior in ourselves and in our staff. During a recent chat about one tome on the subject, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Dr. Hughes succinctly summarized the book in four words: “Don’t be a jerk”.

This light-hearted comment holds great wisdom, and insight into the common pitfalls of leadership.
We all start out with similar traits on the leadership trajectory. Young leaders are typically really smart, personable, ambitious and happy to go above and beyond to do whatever it takes for the organization. Their amiability activates others. They get promoted.

With the power of position and the increasing pressures of leadership, many of these superstars go off the rails because of their way of relating to others; particularly in handling conflict, listening respectfully, problem-solving and maintaining their composure. In other words, they act like jerks. Stress can cause an otherwise perfectly lovely person to act like a jerk, and it is incompatible with effective leadership. Of course, the higher we rise in the workplace hierarchy, the less likely we are to receive honest feedback about how we treat others!
We are now in a highly scrutinized and regulated industry that requires our best efforts to both honor our mission and thrive in this environment

Under these highly intense and game-changing conditions, the jerk can emerge:

  • Use of power or status to win arguments and drive change
  • Insensitive or aloof persona
  • Poor frustration tolerance
  • Low insight into the impact of their style and behavior on others
  • Reliance on obsolete strengths; failure to adapt to changing conditions
  • Trail of hurt feelings among those in their wake

It is essential that leaders at all levels recognize the need for and develop leadership skills that will help us navigate the white water of healthcare reform and hospice’s transition into a mainstay of the healthcare continuum. The ability to engage and motivate employees during difficult conditions is a core competency. Vision and experience remain necessary, but are no longer sufficient.

Barbara Ivanko, CHPCA
President & CEO
Family Hospice and Palliative Care
Pittsburgh, PA

Find out how to develop and strengthen the key relationship between physician and executive leaders at this new one-day program on August 17 in Chicago. Learn the best strategies and most innovative tools to take your hospice leadership team to the next level at the Intensive for CEOs and CMOs: Building an Exceptional Physician/Executive Leadership Team. Learn more at

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