Campus News Editor
On November 3, Leslie Hirsch, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Saint Peter’s University Healthcare System, spoke to Seton Hall University’s Buccino Leadership Institute, aiming to share his career background, including his leadership journey and impact on the community, with Seton Hall students.
He explains that academic experiences are very important, but that real world experience is important to merge with academic engagement and allow leaders to achieve their career goals. He began his career journey believing he wanted to become a lawyer, but simply “fell” into the healthcare administration industry. Explaining that he often found himself in hospitals at a young age due to health issues of his parents, he realized that being a hospital administrator is what appealed most to him. He has had a wide variety of leadership experiences in a various communities and different settings – urban, suburban Catholic, and secular, and across several states including New Jersey, New York, Colorado, and Louisiana.
Beyond the obvious need for healthcare institutions, Saint Peter’s University Hospital and the Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s provide nearly $100 million in community benefit annually, including $22 million of charity care this past year. The institution is known as a major center for maternal and children’s services, Hirsch shares. He highlighted the difference between “leadership” and “servant leadership,” explaining that while leadership mainly guides a team, servant leadership aims to empower employees and encourage individuals to be their authentic selves.
Hirsch describes himself within his position as a generalist. Although strategic planning and strategy was his initial interest, he explains that understanding the various functional aspects of the institution’s operations is equally important to round out one’s leadership experience. He explains that focusing on the organization as a whole is difficult and requires orchestrating change and strong communication with teams and employees. Ultimately, he shares, understanding the environment of the industry allows him to navigate the present and prepare for the future.
A hospital, like many organizations that interact with the public, encounters many high-intensity situations, such as natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other organizational changes. He explains that in scenarios like those, it is important to have thoroughly planned for the viability of the organization in the future. Additionally, he shares the importance of understanding one’s own emotional intelligence in order for that person to be able to lead successfully.
Summarizing his advice for young leaders, Hirsch explains that culture starts at the “top,” or through the leader, and trumps the impact of strategy. He also explains that person-to-person connection is important, as relationships define the impact of any leadership position. Ethics and integrity also should never be sacrificed, even if making a decision that adheres to one’s own morals is a hard decision to make. He explains that seeing the big picture is very important when making decisions. Focusing on a narrow aspect of a situations can be limiting in decision making. The environment should always factor into those decisions.
Sharing how he led a New Orleans hospital, Touro Infirmary, through Hurricane Katrina after only having been the CEO there for a week, Hirsch explains that leaders have to always step up and assume control and assert themselves in a manner required of the particular situation. Despite being new to his position, he led the organization through the disaster successfully. Hirsch offered a quote from Winston Churchill to close his presentation, stating that “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” He explains that leaders should not become serial failures, but they must recognize that failures will occur sometimes. Even when this happens, it is important not give up or get discouraged. He urges all students to never quit whatever goals they work toward.