A guest blog for your Sunday afternoon or Monday morning pleasure. Thank you HPF!

Great to Good


In the book “Good to Great” Jim Collins and his team of economists developed methods to determine how institutions transition from mediocrity to greatness. According to their data there is one essential element for any great institution: leadership. More specifically, they identified a rare type or “level 5” leader who places the interests of the institution far ahead of their own ego, ambitions and personal goals. Examples include Lincoln accepting that 600,000 Americans would have to die to keep the Union intact, or the CEO of Kimberly Clark deciding that the family paper mills needed to be sold to rebuild the company. Level 5 leaders are able to garner respect and rally the troops behind them to lead good institutions to greatness and great institutions to even higher levels. They also concluded that another type of person, “the rock star”, who place fame and fortune ahead of their institution make for ineffective leaders, and over the long term they actually do more harm than good.


At this point, two years into the Depinho era, one has to wonder what type of leader MD Anderson currently has? Do we have a level 5 or a rock star? Based on events in the last two years, I would suggest digging out your Bic lighters. A leader who places the institute first would not fight tooth and nail to circumvent COI policies and retain financial links to a company. A selfless leader would not go on a Wall Street-based television program to brag about that company without once mentioning MD Anderson and his vision for its future. A great leader would admit to making bad decisions up front, and not after being shamed by the press and fellow colleagues. Great leaders do not allow nepotism to grow and fester. They don’t surround themselves with people who echo their philosophy and they definitely don’t stand by idly while senior leaders try to silence dissent with name calling, threats and bribes. A level 5 leader maintains control in times of turmoil, and right now MD Anderson seems to be spiraling out of control.


After two years and incredible amounts of resources and effort spent, it seems what we have is more a house of cards rather than a solid foundation for the future. How can we cure cancer if our leadership can’t balance the budget? A level 5 leader would halt this trend (if it’s not already too late) and regain respect by confronting the problems in a mature and brutally honest manner. A rock star would turn the other way, flip the finger and advise others to follow or get the @#! out of the way. Like a hurricane spinning toward the city, one can only wish for the best and prepare for the worst… 

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