Leadership Lessons from Herbert Hoover

I recently visited, studied and photographed the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa.

Those who serve in healthcare know that it is an industry that requires a certain kind of character. The successful provision of healthcare takes commitment, stamina, patience, empathy, and an assortment of other important qualities. Though he never served in healthcare, our 31st president, Herbert Hoover, demonstrated many of the characteristics essential to healthcare clinicians, other providers and executives. Here are three:

      Responsiveness

      Compassion

      Determination

Hoover was a man of action. When he saw a need, he took action to meet it; when he saw a wrong, he did his best to rectify it. Hoover didn’t wait to see if someone else would take care of it – he recognized need and took initiative to resolve it.  Hoover was responsive!

Like Hoover, those in healthcare respond to the needs of people. Healthcare providers go through years of training in order to enable themselves to meet physical and emotional needs and improve the health and wellbeing of others. Some people considering entering the field of healthcare may initially entertain thoughts of wealth and prestige, but it is only the sincere desire to help people, to take action and respond to their physical and emotional needs, that can inspire the kind of dedication and perseverance required of a successful healthcare provider.

Complementing his responsive nature was Hoover’s compassion. Hoover was born into poverty and orphaned as a young boy, but through hard work and determination he was able to make a better life for himself, and by the age of 40 he was a millionaire (at a time when there were precious few millionaires). Because of his personal experience with poverty and hardships as a boy, Hoover empathized with the less fortunate. Turning his attention to the woes of the world, Hoover used his wealth and influence to become an international humanitarian; under his charge, millions of starving men, women and children were fed and lives saved.

Every day healthcare providers are given the responsibility to care for people’s most precious possession – their very lives. This careful attention to the lives and wellbeing of strangers takes a significant degree of compassion and empathy. As my friend Maynard Oliverius, the retiring CEO of Stormont-Vail Healthcare, once said, “we must separate the business we’re in from the work we do.” Without compassion, healthcare moves toward becoming merely a business and a way of creating revenue, and strays from the admirable calling and service that it should be.

The determination of Herbert Hoover is something to be admired. With great determination and effort, he rose from the depths of poverty to the heights of wealth, and on to what could be considered the pinnacle of success – attaining the American presidency. Though the circumstances of the Great Depression caused Hoover’s presidency to be grim and short-lived, Hoover didn’t quit. Down but not out, his determination and quiet perseverance enabled him to overcome significant hardships and setbacks and again achieve success during his post-presidency years; Hoover helped millions more Americans and people around the world as he continued his gallant humanitarianism and public service.

In the field of healthcare, providers and executives must possess dogged determination and perseverance in order to achieve results. In the face of rising costs, greater need, and new health challenges, healthcare providers must not give up. Though we will encounter innumerable hardships, challenges and setbacks, great healthcare providers show great responsiveness, compassion and determination for improving the health and wellbeing of our country, and our world!

Copyright © 2012 by Dan Nielsen, Founder

National Institute for Healthcare Leadership  – www.nihcl.com

America’s Healthcare Leaders  – www.americashealthcareleaders.com

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