Personal Branding for Healthcare CEOs: The talent manager’s perspective

by Adam Carter, Managing Director

Marissa Mayer (Yahoo!), Tim Cook (Apple), Satya Nadella (Microsoft) – all are CEOs with very public personas and all are figures whose vision and personality are inextricably linked with the companies they lead. They are in fact ‘brands’ in their own right. So what can the health and social care sectors learn from our corporate counterparts? Is there a place for CEOs in our sector to have a personal brand? Does it really matter anyway?

In short yes, it does matter.

The appointments of Mayer et al came about at a time of change within their respective organisations: Yahoo! was flat lining, Apple was suffering from a bout of over-valuation which saw its share price plummet, and Microsoft’s Windows was quickly realising it was no longer ruling the roost. It’s the same within the health and social care sectors too – the appointment of a new CEO in both public and private practices typically comes at a time of change for the organisation.

Indeed, in March Medway NHS appointed a new CEO to deliver a recovery plan over concerns over standards of care, particularly at Kent’s troubled Maritime Hospital. A few weeks earlier specialist care provider Tracscare appointed its new CEO to help drive the company through a transition in ownership.

These organisations recognise the need to undergo transformational change to get – and stay – on top. Of course the exact nature of the CEO’s role will be influenced by the size of the challenge ahead, the urgency and, of course, the personal style of the leader.

So if you are a current CEO, or have your sights set on becoming so, how can you strike the right balance between building your professional brand without compromising your personal outlook?

Here are my observations – based on 20 years’ sector experience – on the traits that make the most effective leaders within the health and social care and education sectors.

  1. Be clear on what you stand for: Clarity of purpose is imperative in any organisation, and even more so in the health, education and social care sectors. Understand the aims of the organisation, establish new goals and balance these priorities with economic realities – there’s no point making popular finger-in-the-air promises à la seven-day week GP surgeries if they have little or no likelihood of ever becoming a reality.
  2. Be accountable: Benchmarks are a demonstration of progress and improvement and good leaders need to ensure that both themselves and their people are measured and held accountable to achieving the standards that are set.
  3. Don’t talk, do: There is no end of people who think they know how to solve a problem like Maria, but in such a politically-charged and highly sensitive environment, the best leaders are those who can make comprehensive, deliberate and sound decisions.
  4. Communicate effectively with your teams: It may sound simple but the way an organisation is perceived both to the outside world and within the confines of your four walls comes down to just one person – you. Leaders must avoid ambiguity and be clear on the vision for the organisation and the expectations of each staff member to help deliver that vision.
  5. Inspire change: Being a leader is not about having a fancy title, it is about creating an environment where your staff is encouraged to share their thoughts, express their concerns and suggest innovative ways of overcoming existing challenges. In doing so, they succeed in having a workforce that is motivated, inspired and loyal.
  6. Leverage your title: You are the CEO – a title that by default means that you are the voice of the organisation that you represent. Use this to your advantage – the media love to talk to those at the top of the tree, they are interested in what you have to say, particularly if you are a new incumbent to your role as you will invariably be able to provide a holistic – fresh – view to a seemingly complex situation.