I hear it over and over again in interviews with the top CIOs in the industry--integrity, honesty, respect. I hear it so often it seems I'm talking to the Boy (or Girl) Scouts of America.

Anthony Guerra, Contributor

August 5, 2010

3 Min Read

I hear it over and over again in interviews with the top CIOs in the industry--integrity, honesty, respect. I hear it so often it seems I'm talking to the Boy (or Girl) Scouts of America.But the best of the best don't fake those tenets, they feel them deeply, they're a part of them.

CIOs' success depends a great deal on soft power. They must derive that power from operating on the up and up, from truly being "good guys" and trying to do right by their fellow executives, employees and managers. CIOs must be above, or apart from, the usual politicking, sniping and rumor mongering in order to foster the type of trust they need to do their jobs.

In a previous column, I wrote about how stress can lead to health issues, such as heart attack and stroke. Well, stress can also lead to less than proper management of employees, leading executives to become harsh, abrupt and callous. CIOs may find themselves frustrated with the finance department about the lack of money for HITECH-related projects (remember, the stimulus comes on the back end), with physicians who just won't use the darn systems, and with staff members who suddenly revel in power which has come from a fast evaporating health IT talent pool.

All those sources of stress can lead to a breakdown of the calm, cool and fair persona that CIOs incorporate into their armor and swords for fighting HIT's battles. But without that armor, there isn't much left to get the job done. Most of the time, not even dotted lines help CIOs direct the activities of those they wish to influence.

I recently interviewed Curt Kwak, CIO of the Washington Region at Providence Health & Services. Kwak used the word integrity at least five times, so much so that I asked him about it. There's no other way to operate and hope for even the slightest chance of success, he said.

Wall Street may have its "Den Of Thieves," but hospitals on Main Street have no room for such shenanigans. Luckily, the industry is dominated with a plethora of mentors to emulate.

I've met many CIOs, gotten to know more than a handful quite well, and am continually astounded by the high level of honesty, generosity and, yes, integrity among this group of people. For those of you who operate on that level, maintain your professionalism no matter what pressures come your way. For those taking shortcuts on the road to the top, be very careful. In my experiences with the A-Team, such behavior is nowhere to be found. Perhaps an invisible glass ceiling catches this flaw before it's too late, sending offenders back down for more time at Scout camp.

Anthony Guerra is the founder and editor of healthsystemCIO.com, a site dedicated to serving the strategic information needs of healthcare CIOs. He can be reached at [email protected].

The federal government recently released requirements that doctors and hospitals must meet to qualify as meaningful users of electronic health records and be eligible for incentive funds. We take a look at the core requirements, the government's intentions, potential pitfalls, and reaction from the medical community Download the report here (registration required).

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