Mary David on The 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming A Leader
An Interview with Brian Vaughan
Becoming a leader often feels like navigating a winding road, where you're learning and adapting every step of the way. As we kickstart our series, "The 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming A Leader," we’re highlighting experienced leaders from various backgrounds, all set to share the valuable lessons they've learned over time. Join us as we delve into heartfelt conversations with those who've truly gotten a handle on the leadership role, uncovering the pieces of advice they wish they could have heard when they were just beginning their exciting leadership journeys. As part of our series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary David.
Who is Mary David?
With a rich 28-year career, Mary David stands as a pillar of dedication and expertise in the healthcare sector. Starting as a Registered Nurse, her journey was marked by critical roles in the emergency room where her hands-on approach and quick thinking became her signature strengths. Mary expanded her repertoire to include Utilization and Case Management practices, fostering a deep understanding of efficient healthcare systems.
About 16 years ago, Mary decided to steer her career towards managed care, a decision that saw her taking up pivotal roles at Peach State Health Plan with Centene and later at OptumServe. Here, she championed innovative approaches to healthcare delivery, seamlessly merging her clinical background with strategic insights to enhance healthcare services. Her leadership roles were characterized by a drive for continuous improvement and operational excellence, showcasing a remarkable ability to adapt to the dynamic landscape of healthcare.
Currently, Mary is a Managing Consultant at Guidehouse. In this capacity, she collaborates closely with clients to envision a progressive future, synergizing with digital and technology teams to create robust, forward-thinking solutions. Furthermore, she frequently manages programs directly for Guidehouse clients, guaranteeing ongoing value and benefits.
As she continues her journey, Mary embodies the perfect blend of clinical expertise and managerial acumen, serving as a guiding light for aspiring healthcare professionals and demonstrating that with dedication and continuous learning, one can significantly elevate the standards of healthcare delivery globally.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that your work keeps you very busy. Our readers are eager to delve deeper into who you are. Would you mind sharing a glimpse of your personal journey or backstory?
At the start of my career, I thought I would mainly focus on gaining different experiences in the nursing field. But as I started working, I realized that my career path was taking me in a slightly different direction. I found myself getting involved in the area of managed care, which was broader and required understanding how larger healthcare systems worked.
This shift wasn't something I had planned, but it soon became a very important part of my growth in the healthcare sector. This role wasn't just about applying what I had learned as a nurse but also involved learning new skills related to managing and improving healthcare services on a larger scale.
As I spent more time in this field, it became clear that this new path was becoming a core part of my career. It was not just about treating individual patients anymore. I was now working on initiatives that had the potential to improve healthcare services for many people at once.
This experience showed me that careers can evolve in unexpected but rewarding ways. What started as a journey to gather varied clinical experiences transformed into a mission to contribute to the healthcare sector in a much broader and impactful way. Looking back, I see that this change was not just beneficial for my personal growth but also allowed me to play a part in improving the healthcare system as a whole. It turned out to be a fulfilling journey where I could use my knowledge and skills to make a positive difference in the healthcare community.
Could you recount the pivotal moments or experiences that guided you to pursue this particular path in leadership?
To be completely transparent, leadership wasn't part of my original career plan. My initial vision for my professional journey in nursing was focused on gaining a wide range of clinical experiences, which I believed would be the cornerstone of my career. I was enthusiastic about the prospect of working with diverse patient populations and becoming a well-rounded clinician.
However, life often has its own plans, and I found myself at a crossroads when an unexpected opportunity in leadership presented itself. It was a pivotal moment that made me reevaluate my career trajectory. Instead of shying away from the challenge, I embraced it as a unique chance to test my limits and expand my horizons.
I realized that stepping into a leadership role could not only enhance my personal growth but also allow me to contribute to the broader healthcare ecosystem in a meaningful way. It was a decision driven by a desire to make a positive impact, lead by example, and drive positive change within the healthcare industry.
So, even though leadership wasn't on my radar initially, I seized the opportunity with enthusiasm, ready to embark on this new journey, knowing that it would take my capabilities to a level I had never imagined before. This experience has since become a defining chapter in my career, allowing me to discover my leadership potential and make a lasting difference in the field of nursing and healthcare.
Can you elaborate on some of the most significant challenges you have encountered in your leadership role, and share the insights and lessons that you've learned?
In my leadership role, I've faced a significant and recurring challenge that revolves around the requirement for skilled and proficient managers within the organization. Initially, I might have assumed that a high level of intelligence or technical expertise would naturally translate into effective leadership. However, my experiences have taught me otherwise.
What I've come to understand is that effective leadership extends beyond the intellectual. It entails a distinct set of qualities and skills, such as strong communication, emotional intelligence, the ability to motivate and inspire others, and a keen understanding of organizational dynamics. These attributes are often more crucial in a leadership role than sheer intelligence or technical knowledge.
As I grappled with this challenge, I realized the importance of identifying and nurturing individuals who possess these leadership qualities. It's not enough to rely solely on academic or technical achievements when selecting or developing managers. Instead, it's crucial to assess their interpersonal skills, adaptability, and capacity to lead teams effectively.
This experience has reinforced the idea that while intelligence is valuable, effective leadership encompasses a broader spectrum of attributes that are essential for driving success in any leadership role.
What are the 5 things you wish you knew before becoming a leader and why?
Before stepping into a leadership role, there are five crucial insights that, had I known them earlier, would have greatly enhanced my effectiveness as a leader.
Importance of Effective Communication: At the heart of leadership lies the ability to convey ideas clearly and foster open dialogue. Effective communication is not merely about talking, but about ensuring that the message is understood, and that others feel heard. In my earlier days as a leader, I underestimated the role of communication, which is the glue that binds a team together. Transparent and direct communication promotes trust, minimizes misunderstandings, and ensures that everyone is aligned with the organization's goals.
Balancing Authority and Empathy: Leadership often demands making difficult decisions and maintaining boundaries. However, I've come to realize that it's equally crucial to cultivate empathy and understanding. Leaders should not be perceived as aloof figures enforcing rules from above but as individuals who genuinely care about the well-being of their team members. Striking this balance between authority and empathy is essential to building a cohesive and motivated team.
Self-Awareness: Understanding one's own biases, strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is pivotal in leadership. Recognizing personal biases allows leaders to make fair and unbiased decisions. Moreover, self-awareness enables leaders to seek personal growth continually. It's a humbling realization that even leaders are not infallible, and acknowledging areas for improvement not only benefits the leader but also the entire team and organization.
Emotional Intelligence: The ability to recognize, understand, and manage one's own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, significantly impacts team dynamics and decision-making. Leaders who exhibit emotional intelligence can navigate conflicts more effectively, foster positive work environments, and build stronger relationships with their team members.
Continuous Learning: Leadership is not a static role; it evolves with time and circumstances. Staying updated on industry trends, leadership techniques, and the ever-changing business landscape is essential. Continuous learning empowers leaders to adapt to new challenges and opportunities, keeping their skills and knowledge relevant. A commitment to lifelong learning ensures that leaders remain at the forefront of innovation and can guide their teams successfully through shifting tides.
Could you please share a quote on leadership or life that holds a significant place in your heart? Could you also explain what about this quote deeply resonates with you or has impacted your perspective?
While many individuals can hold managerial positions, being a true leader entails much more than just a title or role. This realization serves as a continual reminder for me when considering my approach in interactions with others. It reminds me to prioritize not only the tasks at hand but also the development and well-being of the people I work with. By doing so, I aim to not just manage but to lead, inspiring those around me to achieve their fullest potential.
What insights or strategies could you share with fellow leaders to foster their success and resilience in their respective roles?
Continuous learning is a key part of growing both personally and professionally. It encourages a positive way of thinking where you believe that you can get better and smarter over time with effort and determination. This mindset motivates people to keep learning throughout their lives, which helps them stay flexible and creative in a world that is always changing.
Continuous learning is a great way to build strong relationships with others. When you actively participate in learning activities, you can connect with peers, mentors, and others who can offer advice and feedback. These connections can provide great support and make it easier to work together with others on different projects.
Also, the journey of learning all the time helps you understand yourself better and grow emotionally. As you face new challenges, try new things, and meet different people, you develop a deeper understanding of your own feelings and how to work well with others. This not only makes personal connections richer but also boosts your ability to lead and work well in a team.
In short, continuous learning is more than just picking up new skills. It helps to shape how you think, improve relationships, and deepen your understanding of yourself and the people around you, which all contribute to achieving personal and career success.
Thank you so much for your time and sharing these important leadership insights. We wish you continued success in your leadership journey!
If you are interested in being featured in our article series: The 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming A Leader, the process is really easy! Go to https://forms.gle/6K8rjgXGW2rpdCht9 and complete the pitch form. Once completed, I will personally review and if approved, will reach out for additional steps regarding the series. Moreover, if you know other leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs, please feel free to share this opportunity with them or connect them with me through your preferred means.