Following the Leader in Healthcare


Blog Post By Joe Babaian



Today’s blog is dedicated to my friend and yours Richard Bagdonas – A true #hcldr and #pinksocks heart as he undergoes treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston. He’s got this! Please send your best wishes! If you wish to read more about his very personal story, do check it out his Medium, “Eating a papaya in Mexico helped me find cancer.” Further, you will be left speechless (at least I was) by Richard’s exceptional writing on “How I Told My Kids I Have Cancer”

Now, on to today’s blog!

We focus a lot on the stars in business and the business of healthcare. It’s human nature to want to follow and emulate the A players – spread the mantras, make the changes, see progress. But is the path so clear as that?

We can take a quick look at types of leaders. Miya-Bernson-Leung’s recent Tweet on leader’s sources of power is very enlightening:

Leadership isn’t just about being popular and it’s certainly not about being draconian, Steve Jobs’ legacy notwithstanding. Leadership is all about identifying the range of skills and passions in your organization and leveraging for the mutual good.  Balance is another sign of great leadership since we know we need more than just the A players to make a team. We need extroverts AND introverts, we need logical AND feeling, we need the nexus of all the engaged people we lead or work with in pursuit of our joint goal.

Risk appears when we fall into a trap of fallacies and beliefs with little basis in reality. Some great examples of fallacies in the wellness industry are discussed in Witherspoon’s article,  Self-Fulfilling Fallacies of the Wellness Industry. Check it out for some background! Examples of self-fulfilling fallacies from the article:

  • If people understand their disease and mortality risk, they’ll naturally want to change their behavior.
  • Employees need an incentive/disincentive to improve health habits.

When we follow an idea, someone or their path, we need to look at the source of its/their success. These days with social media being a key part of healthcare growth, we can examine who and what we follow. Are we looking toward the true innovator, a passionate carer, a dedicated clinician, an empowering connector? If so, perfect! The risks and rewards are seen in the following graphics.

In the case of a self-fulfilling cycle of fame that grabs others and creates more and more support without actual, active “Getting Stuff Done” #GSD (Thanks @nickisnpdx), we see the following. High regard from your peers leads to big attention to all of your opinions and publishing which leads to high citation rates and use of your work as references. Notice what’s missing? Right. The step that shows real changes in effect, helping real people and not just talk!


On the flip side, another cycle is powerful and it relates to our work and influencing others, but in a slightly different way. The Pygmalion Effect is best explained by this graphic:


You see the benefit of this cycle right away! Actions are at the top! This is pulling others up to a level they didn’t think was possible – high expectations leading towards an increase in performance.

Check out this well-reasoned article Being Honest About the Pygmalion Effect by Katherine Ellison in Discover.

Additionally, I know you will enjoy reading about the “3 Dangers of Charismatic Leadership” in Inc. Author Brian Evje points out three key risks:

1. Leaders can become addicted to charisma

2. Organizations can become addicted to the charismatic leader

3. Charisma grows for its own sake and forgets its purpose

Let’s consider who and what we follow and how we lead. Opportunities are boundless and wasting time building egos isn’t what we need to be doing to make healthcare what we want it to be. Ideas are plenty. Actionable ideas and getting stuff done is what we need to focus on. Pie in the sky is great for philosophizing over a cuppa and praising the latest echo-chamber great idea feels easy, but getting down to work, making a difference, saving a life – that’s why we are here!

This week on #hcldr, let’s think & talk about how and when we should “Follow the Leader in Healthcare.”

Let’s consider where we are and where we need to be as well as the implications along with the #hcldr community of professionals, patients, clinicians, administrators, lurkers, counselors, social workers, designers, and advocates! Please join us on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 8:30pm Eastern (for your local time click here) as we discuss the following topics:


  • T1: Do you see the cult of personality holding back innovation in healthcare? Any examples?
  • T2: How do you inspire those around you (and yourself) to get great stuff done in a quantifiable and lasting manner?
  • T3: In the quiet halls and byways of healthcare, how do we make sure that a rising tide lifts ALL ships – leaving no one behind?
  • T4: What’s your advice to those looking to break silos, step on feet, and get in the trenches of HC to make a real difference?



“3 Dangers of Charismatic Leadership” Brian Evje, Inc.

“Being Honest About the Pygmalion Effect” Katherine Ellison, Discover, Oct 29, 2015.

“French and Raven’s Five Forms of Power” Mind Tools Content Team, Mind Tools,

“Self-Fulfilling Fallacies of the Wellness Industry” Dean Witherspoon, Health Enhancement Systems, July 8, 2014.

“Pygmalion Effect: How Expectation Shape Behaviour For Better or Worse” Thomas Oppong, Medium, Aug 2018.

“The Fallacy of the Player-Coach Model” Boston Consulting Group, April 2006,

Image Credit

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash / Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash.

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