Effective Leadership Requires Listening (Podcast)

Raed Dweik, MD, on change management and the importance of communication

For Raed Dweik, MD, MBA, the path of leadership has led to a new challenge. Formerly Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Pulmonology and Critical Care Institute, Dr. Dweik recently became Chief of the health system’s new Integrated Hospital Care Institute – a role that requires him to lead teams through internal restructuring.


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Integrated Hospital Care encompasses pulmonary critical care and infectious disease, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, hospital medicine, urgent and express care, and perioperative medicine.

The goal of the new structure is to improve the patient journey, says Dr. Dweik. “There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world, and that’s what makes it so exciting,” he says.

But it also requires adjustment. In an interview with Brian Bolwell, MD, for the podcast “Beyond Leadership,” Dr. Dweik describes his approach to the challenges of leading people through change, as well as through uncertainty – as he did during the outbreak of COVID-19.

Leaders must communicate well and listen intently, he says.


They also need to do two things simultaneously, says Dr. Dweik: advocate for team members and hold them accountable.

“This seems counterintuitive, but to me it perfectly makes sense,” says Dr. Dweik. “One without the other is just not going to work. If you just support, support, support, there’s no accountability. With too much accountability and no support, people just burn out. How to find that right balance is key to change management. People again can trust you. [They know] you’re fair, you’re trustworthy, and you’re going to advocate for people while you’re holding them accountable.”

Podcast excerpt

Dr. Bolwell: What [have you learned] about people who were doing well from a leadership perspective and those who weren’t?

Dr. Dweik: The ones who did well, I feel one of the important things they did is communicate well, and you and I have talked about this all the time about communication and the importance of communication, and I think it’s really misunderstood. I’ve been in leadership meetings where the leader speaks the whole time, and they really think they communicated, and nobody (else) felt that they communicated because it was just a one-way lecture. And I’ve been in meetings where the leader really just started the conversation and maybe wrapped it up at the end. They really spoke very little, but then everybody felt engaged and communicated to because they were heard.


I think communication … is more about listening than talking, and I see that many leaders miss that. I’ve been guilty of it, of course, myself, but sometimes we get wrapped up. Do we want to give so many things? You want to give the message, you want to make sure people heard the message, but people hear the message. What they want is to be heard and that’s really a big contrast between good and bad leaders.

The other one is something I learned from one of our early days when I did department reviews is the walking around. Actually, one of my leaders here told me this is the, what do you call it? MBWA — management by walking around. It’s really how to see people in their place. They appreciate that you see them in their office, in their clinic, in the hospital setting, and we just learn about them more and I think they appreciate it more. And that’s something I learned from good leaders, that their teams will be a lot more engaged when they see them interact with them in their environment, and I thought that to be very helpful.

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