Seize Opportunity – Even if You Didn’t See It Coming (Podcast)

President of Cleveland Clinic Akron General sees an upside to discomfort

Brian Harte

A hallmark of strong leadership is learning to eye comfort with a bit of skepticism. Or, to put it in more positive terms, to see the possibilities that a challenging move might hold.

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Brian Harte, MD, is president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital and Cleveland Clinic’s Southern Region, which includes more than a dozen healthcare facilities. He says that time and experience have taught him a few lessons about comfort.

In a conversation with Brian Bolwell, MD, for the podcast “Beyond Leadership: At the Intersection of Leadership and Everything Else,” Dr. Harte noted that opportunities don’t always arrive according to our preferred timeline.

He had been happily serving as president of Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, with no plan to make a move any time soon, when the opportunity arose to step into the role he has now.  “I was looking forward to continuing a lot of important work. I was also very comfortable, and the idea of moving to Akron was originally overwhelming,” says Dr. Harte. “I realized that because it was overwhelming, moving was probably the right thing to do.”

“We don’t get to choose the time, place or circumstances in which opportunities are presented,” he adds. “It’s important to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.”

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Podcast excerpt

Dr. Bolwell: I’m sure you’re a bit different today than you were 15 years ago as a leader. What’s different and what have you learned?

Dr. Harte: If I had a time machine and I could just go back and meet myself from 15 years ago, the first thing I’d say is I’ve learned to be much more open to opportunities as they present themselves, and understand that whatever path I might see myself on could change at a moment’s notice, because of the opportunities that present themselves, because of the situation on the ground. In no small way, the coronavirus pandemic has taught us all this on a personal, if not professional, level.

One of the few pieces of advice I feel very comfortable giving is that as a leader, you have to not only prioritize, because that’s relatively easy. What’s much harder, I think for all of us, and maybe being a doctor is part of this, is to be comfortable with the idea that some of the things on your to-do list may never get done. Some of the things that you don’t say are priorities, some of them may never get done, or they may linger on your to-do list for an indefinite period of time, and that that’s okay.