June 1, 2021

It’s Not About You (Podcast)

Great leadership means supporting a strong team

Brian Donley, MD

Brian Donley, MD, has nine words he believes help keep his team inspired and focused: compassionate caregivers transforming health and care for the world.

That focus has been especially important during the last year, as Dr. Donley, CEO of Cleveland Clinic London, leads the team that is opening the 184-bed hospital behind Buckingham Palace. While COVID-19 has thrown new challenges into the mix, the hospital has stayed on track for its planned opening in January 2022.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

In a conversation with Brian Bolwell, MD, for the podcast Beyond Leadership: At the Intersection of Leadership and Everything Else, Dr. Donley speaks about about his career, his leadership philosophy and how caregiving at the London hospital will dovetail with the rest of the enterprise.

“We are not bringing Cleveland Clinic to London,” Dr. Donley says, “we’re bringing the best of what we do, and we want to integrate with the best of UK healthcare. That learning and innovation, he adds, benefits the 70,000 Cleveland Clinic caregivers who serve patients every day.

Podcast excerpt

Dr. Donley: It’s an incredible privilege to have the opportunity in your life to lead others, and to allow them to be their best. And I think of it not just at work. When you lead a group, you actually lead their lives. And hopefully, you’re not just driving work and discretionary effort, but you’re driving meaning and purpose, opportunities to learn and grow, and actually enrich their entire life. And that’s an amazing privilege. I rarely go a day where I’m not thankful for all the opportunities that Cleveland Clinic has given to me to grow to a position, to have this opportunity in my life to impact others.


I have a picture that I show leadership of a boat going down a big body of water with a big wake behind the boat. And I guess the one thing to leave is I think leadership is about what wake you’re creating. I think a lot of leaders are looking out the front of the boat and they love being on a big boat, and it’s awesome. And the sunset’s out there, and how great. But as a leader, you should be looking behind you and figuring out what wake you’re leaving. And the larger your leadership, the bigger the boat, the bigger the wake.

And is that a nourishing wake that people want to jump into and be a part of, or is it a destructive wake that everyone’s trying to get out of their way? And please, take advantage of the incredible privilege that you have to create a nourishing wake to impact people in their professional and personal lives.


Related Articles

Physician leaders
January 11, 2024
Research Guides Programs to Build Stronger Leaders

A Q&A with organizational development researcher Gina Thoebes

Health insurance, Doctor working in office at hospital and visual screen technology concept life insurance medical and heal care insurance concept
January 5, 2024
Finally: A Way to Measure Health Systems’ Investment in Quality

Cleveland Clinic transformation leader led development of benchmarking tool with NAHQ

Raed Dweik, MD
January 5, 2024
Effective Leadership Requires Listening (Podcast)

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

OPR_Aljeri_4134763_DEI Cohort Photos_8-17-23_LDJ
December 28, 2023
Building Connections Among Supplier Accelerator Alums

Small business owners expand their networks and gain new insights

Margaret McKenzie, MD
December 8, 2023
‘Look to Understand Rather Than To Be Understood’ (Podcast)

Leadership pearls from Margaret McKenzie, MD, hospital vice president

Richard Parker
November 17, 2023
Know Your Audience (Podcast)

Successful communication means meeting listeners where they are

Neil Smith, DO
October 3, 2023
Saying Yes to What’s Around the Next Corner (Podcast)

Hospital president followed his instincts to new opportunities

Rebecca Starck, MD
August 25, 2023
Moving Through Impostor Syndrome

A team of supporters can help build confidence