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Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling: ‘Complacency is the biggest danger’

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The longtime head of the New York hospital system says leaders should constantly raise the bar.

Michael Dowling, the president and CEO of Northwell Health, offers an interesting perspective on the top threat to healthcare organizations.

It isn’t a rival in the market or the changing economic climate.

“The status quo is your biggest competitor,” Dowling says. “Complacency is the biggest danger.”

In a recent interview with Chief Healthcare Executive®, Dowling describes what it takes to be a leader that inspires teams to succeed.

As head of Northwell Health, Dowling leads an organization with 21 hospitals,  hundreds of sites of care, and annual revenues of $16 billion.

“When I look forward, despite difficulties and financial pressures, et cetera, I see enormous opportunity to improve,” he says.

He’s a big proponent of setting lofty goals.

“It’s a lot better to aim high and miss the mark than to aim low and achieve it,” he says.

“Leadership is about aiming high,” Dowling says. “And when you get to your target, raise the bar. That's what leadership is about: constantly raising the bar. You'll inspire people to go above and beyond what they think is possible.”

“When you push that way, it's amazing what people will find out they can do that they didn't think they could do,” he adds. “COVID proved that. We gotta prove it in non-COVID times.”

Dowling has also taken a leadership role nationally in encouraging other health system leaders to join the fight to reduce gun violence.


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