• HERe Spotlight

    The HERe initiative is an effort that aims to inspire not only women but men invested in the professional development of women leaders in the health care field with the tools and resources they need to succeed. We hope to inspire one another, learn together, and connect with colleagues across the industry.

  • Blog: You Don’t Have to Know It All

    by Mary Lee DeCoster

    Leaders can take their organizations farthest when they are not afraid to show vulnerability.

    At the core of my leadership growth was a willingness to make myself transparent. Like everyone, I was anxious to show I knew what I was doing, that I had the requisite skills and expertise, that I could handle any assignment and achieve results.

    Luckily, I was naturally inclined to partner with others, and quickly came to see the benefit of engaging others with expertise beyond my own: Together, we could do great things. Over time, I realized my success was a direct outcome of the success of my subordinates or peers.

    The Harvard Business Journal recently published an article (reviewed by Becker's Hospital Review) with three tips for novices to find success as a CEO. The tips can help any leader, not just chief executives:

    • Showing your excellence at the core (the foundation) of your job
    • Being OK with being "bad" (i.e., lacking a skill or expertise); this is where you are transparent
    • Getting comfortable with being a novice in public (i.e., knowing it's OK to let others see your inexperience)

    In my current role, I use tools to create documents, a task that I used to hand off to an assistant. Today I am my own assistant, and am confounded by the process of inserting graphics into Excel, going beyond a basic slide deck, or bouncing files against one another with a "v lookup." I have learned to be transparent about the fact that I don’t have the skill to do these things, and need help. No worries—others within my group are ready and able.

    In my previous leadership roles, I regularly surrounded myself with individuals who were smarter and more talented than me. I empowered them to "run fast," independent of me. I got out of their way, but regularly checked in to ask:

    • "Do you need anything? Do you have all the tools, equipment, and supplies you need to do this task?"
    • "Are you dealing with any barriers or walls that I can remove?"
    • "How can I help you meet the goal?"

    We have all observed leaders who take the opposite approach in what seems to be an attempt to establish themselves as boss by coming across as the smartest person in the room. These individuals typically hire people who lack skills and expertise and, therefore, are dependent on the boss to help them do the work. This type of leader reinforces his or her ego, but does not achieve the type of move-it-forward results needed in health care today.

    The takeaway: Hire the best and the smartest, those who know more than you. Empower them, and then support them in their work.


    Mary Lee DeCoster is vice president, consulting services, Adreima, Phoenix.


  • About HERe

    The HERe initiative is an effort that aims to inspire not only women but men invested in the professional development of women leaders in the health care field with the tools and resources they need to succeed. We hope to inspire one another, learn together, and connect with colleagues across the industry.

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