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Leadership, teamwork, communication and organizational commitment are more than just buzzwords. They're the key commonalities in the hospitals honored this year by the American Hospital Association, argues H&HN editorial director Mary Grayson. Running Time: 3:53

So, what's it take to be a winner? If you are a baseball player, hitting lots of home runs is a good thing. Or, if you have your heart set on an Oscar, your chances will improve greatly if you are Meryl Streep. OK, so that might not be possible.

What if you are a hospital exec guy or gal who wants the validation and recognition of winning an award? My scientific, complex advice: Try not to think about it. As many an award winner will tell you, the award and the spotlight come last; the hard work comes first. And there is lots of work.

But what does it take to be an award winner? This issue profiles several AHA winning institutions. All of the awards are different, but if you analyze the dynamics of each initiative, several themes bob to the surface.

• Leaders will lead. Leadership is front and center in health care today. It has never been more important than it is right now, and it has never been more difficult — beset by all the trappings of uncertainty. Besieged CEOs everywhere bear simultaneous responsibility for multiple initiatives that literally could make or break the future of their institutions. Now for the good news. The CEO must set the tone, but if there is an A-team roster of executives throughout an institution, one or more will take ownership and leadership of the initiative and make it happen — with the CEO's all-important support.

• The more the merrier and the better. Long gone are the days of issuing edicts from on high and expecting everyone to obediently fall in line. (Not that they ever did, I might add.) If you have an institutionwide initiative, everyone in that institution must buy into it and understand what his or her individual role is. If you want to change your culture, which is the underpinning of the entire operation, it takes commitment by everyone from the front line to the top line.

• Talk to me. Communication is probably the most undervalued executive skill going these days. No pun intended, but I can't even remember the last time I heard communication skills talked about as an important executive attribute. Maybe everyone just assumes he's a great communicator. My guess, probably not.

One characteristic shared by all the award winners is the art of communication. They defined the issue, they explained it, they argued for it, they tailored communications to the audience, they verified that people understood what they were told. And then they did it all over again, as many times as necessary.

Nothing is as powerful as a conversation. You don't have to be a great orator, with a commanding presence and a mesmerizing voice, but you do have to be willing to engage with all types of people. Everyone has his "kitchen cabinet," but you can't lead and champion a cause by talking to a "select few." As one CEO recently put it, "Leadership is person-to-person."

• Ya gotta have heart. Many different types of skills are assembled and intertwined to win an award. But in this lineup of award winners perhaps no one skill is as important as just having the obsessive drive and commitment to accomplish something that will help others. That's what health care is all about. And that's what it takes to be a winner.

— Let me know what you think. You can reach me at mgrayson@healthforum.com