Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi CEO on Striving to Be the Best (Video)

Seize challenging opportunities to grow

Toby Cosgrove, MD, CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic, called Tomislav Mihaljevic, MD, now CEO of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, to his office during the recruitment process to talk about his career. Dr. Mihaljevic was wondering what the expectations were of him, a heart surgeon. “I don’t understand the question,” Dr. Cosgrove said. “You can be whatever you want, but on one condition: strive to be the best in the world.”

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Dr. Mihaljevic says that’s the best advice he’s ever gotten as he joined an exceptional organization that encouraged aspiring to high standards. But he knew he had to figure out what to do with the advice. “When people ask me how to develop their careers, I usually advise them to jump on the jobs important for the organization, but that no one else wants to do.” He says it works phenomenally well, because first, those jobs are always available, and, once you take them, there’s no competition, and you often have the freedom to take the project in a direction of your choosing.

As one becomes a leader, Dr. Mihaljevic says, the charge is to help develop others for leadership. He’s often asked how he finds the time to do that. “It’s not really a matter of finding the time,” he says, “We have the ability to develop others through everything we do each day. You must walk the walk.”

One of the greatest and most important challenges of leadership, Dr. Mihaljevic believes, is to be focused and self-aware. “You may have hundreds of different conversations with hundreds of people each day,” he says. “Every time you interact, you must think about the fact that this conversation may be the most important conversation for that person not just that day, but perhaps that month or that year.”

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As we develop teams and work on challenging projects, Dr. Mihaljevic emphasizes that some of the best advice harks back to what we learned as children. “You will all be inexperienced, and you won’t be right every time,” he says. “So remember what your mother taught you. Say ‘I’m sorry,’ because you will make mistakes, and ‘thank you,’ because you depend on the people you work with for the success of the organization.”

Recognizing and seizing opportunities for growth can present some difficult decisions on the path to leadership. You can’t do it all, so how do you turn a unique challenge into the opportunity of a lifetime? Cleveland Clinic leadership programs help you build your leadership legacy. More information on today’s programs is available at The Cleveland Clinic Way: Intensives, Samson Global Leadership Academy or Executive Visitors’ Program.