When Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, a cardiologist, became CEO of the Cleveland Clinic in 2004, he was very confident he could do great things for the institution. Cosgrove first joined the Cleveland Clinic in 1975, and he established himself as one of the best surgeons around.
What Cosgrove quickly discovered, however, was he might have his work cut out for him. While he knew the surgical side of the clinic as well as anyone, he had a new vocabulary to learn when it came to HR, marketing, and fund-raising.
He also struggled with becoming a public figure. When going to a basketball game, for example, he couldn’t just eat a hot dog since he was representing the Cleveland Clinic. And he was continuously challenged with how to communicate effectively with his team.
Jeffrey Cohn and Jay Moran outline Cosgrove’s struggles in their book Why Are We Bad At Picking Good Leaders.
Fortunately, Cosgrove did not rush forward with his agenda. And he wasn’t arrogant. He recognized he had a lot to learn especially in the area of emotional intelligence. His biggest lesson was he needed to slow down and listen more, which was tough because as a doctor he was used to giving instant feedback.
By slowing down and listening more, by admitting he didn’t have all the answers, and by moving away from making snap judgments, Cosgrove became a stronger leader. He became a successful CEO.
And what he learned applies to anyone in a leadership position. Strong leadership is not defined by aggressive agendas. Strong leadership is paved by a foundation of rapport, and rapport is built by fine-tuning your emotional intelligence.