Bernard Tyson stood like a colossus over my career, my life, and the Modern Healthcare family of reporters, editors and opinion leaders. He was a friend and adviser on everything from relationship management and gender inclusion to great music and dining.
I’m not alone. Over the past week, we’ve seen countless messages of grief and gratitude coming from across healthcare’s continuum and beyond, including celebrities and politicians.
Time and time again we’ve heard about his leadership, which to him meant more than a title. His leadership was about mission, vision, values, and most importantly, walking the talk.
Bernard’s personal code of ethics was embedded in the mammoth organization he led. By doing that, he brought focus and clarity to his staff and was repaid with loyalty and devotion.
Part of the appeal of this powerful man was his kindness. He lived the golden rule: always treating others how he wanted to be treated. He listened and treated others with respect. Around the world, he connected with and inspired people.
Even with all of this influence and after hobnobbing with actors and athletes, he was humble.
Bernard admitted his mistakes. He admitted to not having all of the answers and leaned on others for help and acted with responsibility and accountability. If a deal faltered or a crisis emerged, he took it as an opportunity to learn. Long before transparency became fashionable, Bernard was its champion—sharing snafus and missteps and, of course, invaluable lessons learned.
He was always part of the action and as a result often had to make tough decisions. But his choices generated the clinical and business results he wanted and his enthusiasm for what he knew was right nudged others to follow his lead.
Being an exceptional communicator and a world-class marketer, Bernard knew that the messenger was never as important as the message.
He unpacked every situation—and gave it context. He embraced the disruption of the industry and could—like no one else—articulate where we’ve been, where we were headed and why.
As a result, Bernard made the rounds, sitting in on the AfroTech gathering in Oakland, CNBC’s @Work Summit, or Modern Healthcare’s Leadership Symposium, always making the case to provide high-quality and affordable healthcare for everyone.
As a provider and a solid human being, Bernard wanted to make people feel whole and important. He had many proteges and let them know their value by genuinely caring about them and showing them how to succeed. Bernard was comfortable enough in his own skin to take the spotlight off himself and put it on others. Everyone was special—from high-profile fellow CEOs to the waitstaff at his favorite restaurant.
He made me feel special every time I reached out, because whether he was in Dubai or Detroit, the CEO of one of the nation’s largest systems would make time for me. He took my call or answered my e-mail almost immediately.
Three weeks ago, Bernard visited Modern Healthcare’s office for the last time. He made the journey at least twice each year.
He had just come off of a victory negotiation with a labor union and was proud to share detailed plans to invest in training his employees.
Bernard’s life is a testament to the power of transformative leadership, kindness and generosity. At 60 years of age, with his booming personality and ever-evolving plans, he was taken far too soon. But I can imagine him advising me to live with passion, authenticity and gratitude.
What I also want to take away is making sure to always thank those who make a difference in my life. I would advise you to do the same.
Let people know you respect, honor and value who they are and what they do. Our industry and society will be better for it.
Thank you Bernard. You will be greatly missed, my friend.