At a recent career-coaching session, Rhonda Anderson, CEO of Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz., discussed goals and professional aspirations with her young protege.
“I asked, ‘Why do you want a new position?’ ” Anderson told a crowd of more than 100 attendees at the Women Healthcare Executives Breakfast on Tuesday at the 2011 ACHE Congress on Healthcare Leadership at the Hilton Chicago. “What do you want to do?” The protege, Anderson said, replied simply, “I want to be a CEO.”
Focusing on a title or position rather than on the contribution you want to make to an organization is a common professional mistake, Anderson said in her address, “Tips from the C-Suite.” “What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning?” she asked. “And what makes you want to stay in bed and pull the covers over your head? Make sure you’re measuring those things.”
It’s critical not only to have a personal road map for moving forward professionally but also to re-evaluate it continually, Anderson said. Most career paths aren’t a direct line, and many executives don’t end up in a place where they thought they’d be at the start of their professional lives, she said.
Anderson, a registered nurse and an ACHE fellow as well as an American Hospital Association board member, added that approximately every five years, she runs through a battery of personal assessments with a representative from an outplacement firm. “I need to know … does this align with me and who I am, and does this position fit?” she said.
Women in particular have a tendency to want to please everyone, Anderson said—and leadership requires a willingness to not be liked. Management itself “isn’t really hard,” she said. “You have a process that you work with; you have metrics that you follow.” Leadership, by contrast, “takes a lot of energy, a lot of effort, a lot of courage.”
“If you’re not courageous, don’t go into these leadership positions,” she said. “And especially don’t go into them if you’re a woman.” Female executives are “in a fishbowl” and need to have and display courage in their decisions, she said.