The difference between a good administrator and a great one during a crisis: 3 leaders weigh in

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an unprecedented amount of pressure on healthcare leaders who must juggle a plethora of clinical, financial and operations priorities, while also putting the safety of their patients and staff members front and center. 

Three ASC leaders discussed how to be a great administrator during tough times and lead effectively through a crisis during an Oct. 2 panel at the Becker's ASC Virtual Event. Panelists included: 

  • Leasa Hermanson, RN, administrator of Ambulatory Care Center in Vineland, N.J.

  • Brandon Shows, administrator of Baylor Scott & White Surgicare Plano (Texas)

  • Jeany Dunaway, RN, administrator of Effingham (Ill.) Ambulatory Surgery Center

Below is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity. Click here to view the session on demand.

Question: What do you think separates a good administrator from a great one during a crisis? 

Brandon Shows: I think a great leader is somebody who faces a problem head on. Communication and honesty are also key. I think that's what most people want. We often want to sugar coat things or walk around them, but if we can just be upfront and honest, I think that really helps to get the ball rolling. And then also admitting when you're wrong. I've made many wrong decisions, and through this crisis, I think we all have, right? On a daily basis, we're making mistakes because we're human, and we're trying to figure this thing out. If we're open and honest and say, "Hey, listen, I made a mistake. We thought that this was the right decision. It wasn't, so now we're going to course correct."  

We're not going to stop making decisions because that's the thing that's going to lead us through this. And as long as everybody understands that, once again, it brings that human element into it. That we're all trying to figure out the solutions as we move forward. And we're going to come up with those solutions as a team, not as individuals.

Jeany Dunaway: I have to agree with what Brandon's saying. I think I've said "I don't know" more than I ever have in the last six months. There's no playbook for this. This is all brand new. So I think that's true about bringing that human element and saying, "I don't know. Let's find out, let's work together and try to get through this." I'm not saying this as much now, just because we've been doing this for months. But there are still so many different scenarios in which I get questioned daily, if not more, about certain things that I'm like, "I don't know. Let me think about this one for a second." So I think that even though people expect you to have all the answers, they also know that you sometimes have to look into it a little further.

Leasa Hermanson: Americans are not comfortable with those words, "I don't know." They don't want to hear it. They want you to make something up or come up with something that's going to resolve the issue no matter what the problem is. And so that is for sure one of the things we've been dealing with.  

To me, a great leader is not reactionary. A great leader takes things in stride and knows that they're prepared for whatever's going to happen. And you may make mistakes. Everybody's absolutely going to be [making mistakes], and you're right, you need to own them. Because that's going to make everybody understand that we're all on the same page. So that's, for me, the biggest thing. You have to be flexible in that things are going to change. You're not going to know the right answer for everything that could happen. And we're dealing with it all the time now. 

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