Mayo Clinic CAO Shirley Weis shares advice for leadership

Published: Oct. 24, 2013

Shirley Weis got her start as a nursing student here at Sparrow and Michigan State University, and worked her way to become one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare.

Weis, RN, studied nursing at MSU and did her nursing externship at Sparrow's 7 South Unit. She is now the chief administrative officer and vice president of the Mayo Clinic and is the first woman to hold that post.

"I always liked the leadership part," she said. "I liked the fact that I could make a difference in more lives than I could one-on-one."

Weis spent a decade in Michigan hospitals-first as an emergency department nurse and then in administration for ERs and outpatient clinics-before becoming medical administrator and eventually chief operating officer of Blue Care Network-mid-Michigan. She has held administrative roles at Mayo Clinic since the 1990s.

According to Weis, there are essential skills for successful healthcare professionals and leaders and they include:

The Basics:

  • "Get your ticket punched." No matter how talented or smart you are, you need to get the credentials required of your position to be successful.
  • Continue to upgrade your skills.
  • Work hard.

The "need to have" skills:

  • Communication skills.
  • Change-management skills: Leaders need to know how to help employees through change. Mayo Clinic uses ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) as the steps to guide change for groups within the organization.
  • Ability to build trust: "People want to know you walk the talk."

The "intangible" skills that truly drive excellence:

  • Emotional intelligence: Learn how to read others and help them, and also control how you react to challenges.
  • Grit: The perseverance and stamina needed to help you refuse to give up.
  • The ability to relate to people: According to Weis, the best illustration of this skill can be glimpsed in a quote from Maya Angelou, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."