What are the hallmarks of leadership? I have often asked myself this throughout my career journey as a technology leader. I place a high value on empathy, collaboration, passion and curiosity.
In the health care industry that we all rely on, transformational leadership is a must. Few things about our medical system are simple. Highly trained physicians. Public misperception. Complex financing. What can leaders do to break through the clutter and drive real change?
Bryony Winn, president of Elevance Health solutions, is on a mission to do just that. Designing new programs to keep members healthier is one of the best ways to reduce overall health care costs and extend quality years in a person’s life. I recently listened to The Health Pulse podcast where SAS host Alex Maiersperger spoke to Bryony in an episode called “Is Value-Based Care Failing?” about her passion for increasing affordability, access and quality in health care.
Born in Zimbabwe, Bryony had the opportunity early in her career to join the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, an organization focused on building exceptional leadership. When asked what she learned from this extraordinary experience, she said that Nelson Mandela impressed upon her that, with tenacity, insurmountable problems can absolutely be overcome. As I’ve recently come to say, “impossible is an opinion.” The second lesson was on pragmatism.
Nelson Mandela at his heart was a leader and a politician. How you create great change within a system and be pragmatic about that is something that I have always held with me.
– Bryony Winn
1. Use data to address whole person needs
Overcoming resistance to change can be a long and arduous cultural challenge, but it is possible with the right approach. Bryony believes value-based care is emerging as a successful strategy within her organization, rewarding high performing care providers and delivering quality patient care.
The second change that Bryony champions are using digital technologies and data sharing to address the whole person's needs rather than a series of discrete health interactions. The key to keeping their health plan members healthy may be hidden in the data from dental wellness to mental health or medication adherence.
Health care is deeply cultural. And many different types of health systems can work. They have to work within the culture of the people who experience them.
– Bryony Winn
Being able to look across those disparate data silos to create a more comprehensive view of their plan member can be a transformative change in how we approach overall health care.
2. Be open and honest about challenges
As a mother in the workforce, I can relate to so many of Bryony’s personal stories. In the health care industry, the workforce is predominantly women. The recent pandemic placed a significant burden on women as caregivers, both professionally and personally.
Bryony encourages women to be open and honest about all leaders' challenges in balancing work and home life. Bryony and Alex even shared some laughs over common experiences raising young families (hey, who hasn’t served frozen meals for breakfast?). Building trust through shared experiences is the foundation for productive partnerships at work.
3. Be passionate and optimistic
Effectively leading an organization through change requires a passion for the outcome and a spirit of collaboration to achieve results. Bryony testifies to the incredible passion of front-line care teams, which inspires leaders to do more.
Based on her experience in multiple health care systems around the world, she also cautions against a one-size fits all approach:
“Health care is deeply cultural. And many different types of health systems can work. They have to work within the culture of the people who experience them.”
Through it all, Bryony retains her optimism about the transformational change that data and value-based care will bring to the overall health care system. A value placed on health, not health care.