Because the life of a hospital CFO is one of constant change, that person’s ability to respond to these changes is critical to an organization’s success. The CFO must be a strategic partner to many operational leaders within the enterprise and must be ready to bring financial perspective to decision-making. In addition, the CFO is expected to be highly skilled in accounting and finance and to have high business intelligence. However, many other qualities differentiate the top CFOs from the rest. Valuable attributes include good communication skills, strong analytical thinking, timely decision-making, and good mentorship skills. Three other especially important qualities are integrity, collaboration, and – one that might be surprising – empathy. When others see these traits in action, it can help increase performance and efficiency, contribute to improved governance, and heighten awareness of risk management and compliance.
Integrity can be difficult to see or quantify, but it seems obvious when integrity is not evident. In the continually evolving healthcare industry, particularly with new entrants and pressures, situations where integrity is missing from leaders’ actions might include cases of theft, billing fraud, prescription drug fraud, and false credentials. And while society has a tendency to focus on extremes, individuals interact with many good people every day in their personal and professional lives who display integrity in everything they do. These are three important components of integrity:
- Being honest. Honesty is valued by supervisors, peers, and subordinates. Individuals with integrity are truthful, and their actions are based on doing the right thing and not trying to rationalize an action that they know is not in the best interests of the team or the organization. In addition, if a CFO or the CFO’s team makes a mistake, the CFO should admit the mistake and take responsibility without singling out any single individual.
- Living up to commitments. Leaders should do what they say they will do. CFOs are accountable to a lot of people with many responsibilities to their own teams and organizational customers. High levels of frustration result when individuals or teams commit to actions or deliverables by certain dates but fail to meet those commitments. A leader with integrity does everything possible to meet commitments, yet is also quick to identify overcommitments and renegotiate timelines.
- Treating everyone with kindness and respect. The CFO typically works with a team with diverse skills, religions, cultures, and ages, and many members of the team will become leaders. A CFO with integrity recognizes team diversity and acknowledges these differences in order to make team members feel appreciated and demonstrate that diversity is a pathway – rather than a hindrance – to success.