‘Look to Understand Rather Than To Be Understood’ (Podcast)

Leadership pearls from Margaret McKenzie, MD, hospital vice president

A long career in medicine and extensive leadership experience has taught Margaret McKenzie, MD, what it means to succeed in a rapidly changing field. Dr. McKenzie began as an obstetrician/gynecologist, and now is Vice President of Cleveland Clinic South Pointe Hospital and Marymount Hospital. In a conversation with Brian Bolwell, MD, for the podcast series “Beyond Leadership,” Dr. McKenzie describes one of the early lessons she learned about problem solving and managing people.


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“The hardest lesson was remembering, every time there was a challenge, that you’re dealing with humans,” says Dr. McKenzie. “Sometimes we forget that, and we look for perfection. And I think that you’ve got to bring humanity back to everything that you do and realize that other people have challenges in their lives. You should really look to understand rather than to be understood when you’re dealing with challenges.”

Podcast excerpt

Dr. Bolwell: Do you have a leadership philosophy?

Dr. McKenzie: What’s fascinating about humans, particularly those of us who are in medicine, is that we forget that we’re already unique in the sense that we’re goal setters. We actually don’t mind delayed gratification, and we can persist for a very long time. And there is no such thing as “arriving” for us, and we have to continually reinvent ourselves. There are a lot of new changes around us in healthcare, in technology, in skill, and we have to constantly pay attention to all those changes that are happening. And we have to adapt our life to it. So I would say reflection, often with constant goal resetting, is very important for us.


And let us remember that mentors matter. Many times, we can get lost and stuck, and sometimes mentors can actually help you to see where you’re at. Going to different places and seeing how other people things do, learning from other people, is really important.

My philosophy is that you can always begin again anytime you’re ready. Exposure matters, mentors matter, and don’t be afraid to walk the road less traveled. For us in healthcare, especially at a crucial time right now, thinking of new ways and thinking outside of the box is really important, because the world is not the way we found it when we walked into medicine or into our careers. And if you don’t reinvent yourself, you’re going to get stuck.

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