When it comes to women in leadership, there are many cases where women show unique and valuable leadership styles based in both their gender and cultural identities. Raji Kumar, CEO of Dallas Medical Center, is a great example of bringing a fresh style of leadership to her executive job and in so doing, turning a failing hospital into one of the area’s most disruptive, innovative and successful hospitals.

Previous Leadership

Kumar inherited Dallas Medical Center in a very bad position. The previous leadership had focused on getting the latest technology and newest cutting edge medical systems, but were easily overwhelmed by the gigantic purchasing power of nearby competition. Relationships with nearby physicians were frayed, reducing the probability of any physician referrals to Dallas Medical Center.

The year Kumar took her position as CEO of Dallas Medical Center, the hospital was going $2 Million deeper in the hole every single month, and an entire floor had to be shut down because of rooftop leaks.

Innovation and Renovation

Kumar used the style of leadership coined by Sally Helgesen as The Female Advantage to find needs in her community, build relationships with physicians and staff and turn around the hospital so that in 5 years the hospital went from losing $2 Million dollars a month to being over-budget the same amount. In Helgesen’s bestselling 1990 book, she described how men and women approach work in fundamentally different ways, many of which can benefit women. Specifically, she wrote about how women are often better suited to running organizations that “foster creativity, cooperation and intuitive decision-making power,” obvious necessities for companies of today. And unlike many male led organizations, “organizations run by women do not often take the form of the traditional hierarchical pyramid, but rather more closely resemble a web, where leaders reach out, not down, to form an interrelating matrix built around a central purpose. The strategy of the web concentrates power at the center by drawing others closer and by creating communities where information sharing is essential.”

Kumar first found what customers (local physicians’ offices) needed that the other large hospitals around her were not offering or were doing poorly. So she specialized her hospital in four key service areas: (1) worker’s comp, (2) a specialized ob-gyn department, (3) specific surgeries and (4) wound care.

With this specialization in place to differentiate her hospital from other nearby hospitals, Kumar then set about to build relationships. She had to find those doctors who would refer patients, doctors who would work in the hospital and build relationships with a staff who were overworked and afraid for their jobs. In just a few years time, Kumar’s strategy reaped vast rewards.

Nina Nets It Out: Relationships and innovative specialization are at the key of any good leader’s potential and Kumar shows that women have abilities to see and think about problems in unique and innovative ways and to build success when their predecessors saw only insurmountable problems. Women must continue to leverage their different perspectives, styles and nature to achieve better outcomes that more traditional approaches.

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