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The Transformative Power of Engaged Leadership—Leading from Any Chair

Blair L. Sadler, JD, Past President & CEO, Rady Children’s Hospital; Senior Fellow, IHI; Board Member, Health Care Without Harm

What a year 2015 turned out to be in terms of the environmental health! Historians may view this year as a landmark—the year when most of the world woke up to the fact that climate change was and is the most serious public health threat in the 21st century. From the Pope’s encyclical, to The Lancet Commission report, the White House Summit, and the Paris agreement involving 195 countries, the environmental sustainability train has left the station.

What’s more, the health care sector has begun to recognize that it has a big role to play in solving the problem. Businesses large and small have realized that going green makes good economic sense. Health care has moved from pursuing the single aim of better health care for individuals to include the triple aim of better population health and lower costs.

Practice Greenhealth’s Healthier Hospitals (HH) program has further developed six Challenges to help individual organizations move forward. I view the Engaged Leadership Challenge as the platform upon which the other five stand. Without it, great individual projects or pilot programs usually do not become contagious and spread throughout.

In my experience as the president & CEO of San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital for 26 years, I became a student of leadership. I learned that leadership could be top down, bottom up, or could come from most anywhere. I learned that you did not need to have a big title to lead, that you could, as Ben Zander says “lead from any chair.” But it takes courage, dogged determination, and a willingness to share lessons learned.

To engage leadership in any new venture, I believe you need a compelling case led by champions who are credible, passionate, and persuasive. It helps if the case if based on solid data AND a moral/ethical imperative. It also helps if the case has a positive economic impact internally and externally. It also helps if there are proven examples of success. All of these exist today and HH makes it easy to find them.

The even better news—the refreshed HH How to Guide on Engaged Leadership provides all the tools an organization needs to get started or to build on where you are. It provides excellent, practical suggestions. Use it—it’s solid gold!


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