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CEO Turnover – The Need For More Effective Leadership

By Barry R. Cesafsky LFACHE

Blog3_Post1_CEO_Turnover2023_3-20-23The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on hospitals and healthcare systems, including a higher rate of turnover for CEOs and other executives. According to a survey conducted by a healthcare executive search firm, 15% of hospital CEOs in the United States have left their positions since the start of the pandemic. This turnover rate is higher than the 18-month national average of 18%.

The reasons for the turnover vary, but some of the most common factors include burnout, stress, and financial strain caused by the pandemic, particularly with high staffing costs. The demands on hospital leaders have increased significantly during the pandemic, including managing the healthcare response, maintaining staff morale, and balancing the financial pressures of the crisis.

The implications of this turnover are significant for the future of healthcare leadership. Hospitals and healthcare systems may struggle to find experienced and qualified leaders to replace those who have left. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for strong and effective leadership in healthcare, and hospitals will need to prioritize hiring and retaining top talent to ensure they are prepared for future challenges.

Additionally, the pandemic has accelerated changes in the healthcare industry, including a shift towards virtual care and new approaches to healthcare delivery. Hospitals will need leaders who can navigate these changes and adapt to new models of care while maintaining a focus on patient outcomes and quality of care.

Overall, the high turnover of hospital CEOs and executives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of more effective leadership in healthcare. Hospitals and healthcare systems will need to prioritize hiring and retaining top talent to navigate the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and the changing healthcare landscape.

More effective leadership in healthcare requires a combination of technical expertise and character strengths. Martin Seligman’s Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) framework can provide a useful lens through which to explore these qualities. The CSV framework is based on six virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence, and each virtue is associated with several character strengths.

Wisdom: Effective healthcare leaders should possess wisdom, which includes the strengths of creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, and perspective. These strengths can help leaders to be innovative, seek out new approaches, and make informed decisions based on a broad range of perspectives.

Courage: Healthcare leadership requires the courage to take risks, make difficult decisions, and advocate for what is right. Courage includes the strengths of bravery, perseverance, honesty, and zest. Leaders who possess these strengths can inspire others to push past their fears and take bold action.

Humanity: Leaders who demonstrate humanity show compassion, empathy, and kindness towards others. This virtue includes the strengths of love, kindness, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence. Healthcare leaders who possess these strengths can build strong relationships with their colleagues and patients, creating a supportive and collaborative work environment.

Justice: Healthcare leaders must prioritize fairness, equity, and accountability in all aspects of their work. The strengths associated with justice include fairness, leadership, teamwork, and citizenship. Leaders who embody these strengths can create a culture of trust and respect within their organizations.

Temperance: Leaders who demonstrate temperance exhibit self-control, humility, and moderation in their actions and decisions. This virtue includes the strengths of forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-regulation. Healthcare leaders who possess these strengths can remain calm and level-headed in challenging situations, modeling positive behavior for their teams.

Transcendence: Healthcare leaders who exhibit transcendence prioritize meaning, purpose, and spirituality in their work. The strengths associated with this virtue include gratitude, hope, spirituality, and humor. Leaders who possess these strengths can inspire their colleagues to find meaning in their work and stay motivated even in difficult times.

Effective healthcare leadership requires a combination of technical expertise and character strengths, as outlined in the CSV framework. Leaders who possess these strengths can create a positive work environment, build strong relationships with colleagues and patients, and make informed decisions that prioritize fairness, equity, and accountability.

HealthSearch Partners is eager to assist you in finding an effective healthcare leader for your organization. With a foundation of more than 100 years’ combined experience, HealthSearch principals are adept at matching the best leaders with clients, particularly with CEO searches. We focus on finding individuals whose background and track record reflect the Character Strengths and Virtues framework. Most important, we understand what is necessary to determine fit with your team.


About the author: Barry Cesafsky is a Co-Founder of HealthSearch Partners. With more than 35 years of experience in the executive search field he brings a wealth of insight and knowledge to each executive search assignment. Contact Barry:, or 630.479-6228.

About HealthSearch Partners: HealthSearch Partners is a nationally recognized healthcare executive search firm. We partner with mission-driven hospitals and health systems to find leaders who are focused on success. As a mid-sized firm, our senior search leaders work with clients throughout the engagement, accessing a larger pool of talent, to find the right candidate that is the right fit for the client.

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