Top 25 Emerging Leaders
John Hill, 39
President and CEO, Medical Center of Aurora (Colo.) and Centennial Medical Plaza
John Hill has quite a story to tell.
Hill, 39, took over as president and CEO of the 303-bed Medical Center of Aurora (Colo.) and Centennial Medical Plaza in April 2007 after working 3 1/2 years as chief operating officer of HCA's 542-bed Medical City Dallas Hospital.
According to Carol Gregory, chief nursing officer at Medical City Dallas Hospital and formerly vice president and chief nursing officer for Medical Center of Aurora and Centennial Medical Plaza, Hill's leadership style is characterized by frequent contact with employees with quarterly forums and frequent “Chat and Chew” informal lunches where Hill is known for telling stories that always reflect back on the organization's mission and values—or, as Hill puts it, “to remind ourselves why we come to work every day.”
“Storytelling is part of my leadership style,” Hill explains. “The way I use it is to support behaviors.” Hill jokes that no one has asked him to stop telling stories, so he's going to continue to do so. “It's fun for me,” he says. “I've always been drawn to leaders or speakers who could illustrate a principle with vivid examples and I've just adopted that.”
The father of six, Hill gets to rehearse his stories as he recounts each day's events for his family when he gets home. His 30-minute drive home each day gives him a chance to collect his thoughts about what he's going to say. “It's usually a ‘this is what we were doing today' talk,” Hill says, and he tells his kids about “miracles performed” and other heartwarming episodes. His oldest daughter spent time observing the events at the neonatal intensive-care unit during a take-your-child-to-work day, Hills says, and she always asks him about how many babies are in the nursery, how many were delivered that day, and how many are in the NICU. “She always wants to do know if they're doing well,” he says. Hill began his career as the administrator of an ophthalmology surgical practice in Flagstaff, Ariz., in 1994, and Gregory believes this experience has helped him understand the physician mindset while other members on staff appreciate his humble demeanor. “I remember being struck by the humility he showed in talking about himself at his first employee forum and feeling that, if he was humble like that, he was going to be well received—that was my first opinion,” Gregory says. Initial impressions aside, Gregory says the first time she really recognized Hills had “unbelievable skills” is when department leaders were called in to discuss strategic plans for the different service lines at the medical center and medical plaza. “The questions that he asked made people think more deeply than they had before,” Gregory recalls. “Even though he's young and this is his first time around (as CEO), I thought he is definitely the person for the job.”