Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Paradis, former president of Florida Hospital's (now Advent Health) Central Region, a $4 billion company with more than 25,000 employees.
The facility was ranked the #1 hospital in the nation three years in a row by US News and World Report under Brian's leadership, but it took a lot of imagination to solve the organization's challenges to get to that point.
Brian has recently authored a book, Lead with Imagination, about what he believes is an essential quality for a difference-maker in the increasingly complex world of business: imagination.
4 ways to lead with your imagination.
In the book, Brian shares that imagination, when applied to the art of leadership, has the ability to unleash untapped potential in yourself and those around you.
He discovered some foundational lessons in his quest to transform Florida Hospital and relays those in one of the most powerfully-vulnerable leadership books I've ever read. These insights will challenge the way we all think about imagination. Here are the four traits of top leaders that most resonated with me.
Love, in this case, is a principle packed with action behind it, not a squishy feeling. Brian says it was one of the guiding forces he saw transform the interactions within his teams. As Simon Sinek shares in his book, "Leaders Eat Last," leaders must put others first. By leading with actionable love and compassion, leaders set the tone of engagement within their businesses. Brian shares that while love is often viewed as a soft skill in the often harsh, transactional business environment, the concept should be hard-wired in day-to-day interactions and strategy meetings.
Culture is one of the most important things a leader is responsible for shaping and you can't do that without establishing trust, says Brian. He believes that being authentic and being humble as a leader allows the employees to trust, which becomes the basis of a great culture. Being willing to be transparent in the wins and losses with your team allows them to be authentic as well. Brian admits this isn't as easy as it sounds and encourages leaders to give themselves permission to fail and try again.
3. Vulnerability and risk-taking.
Imagination means trying new things that inherently involve a little risk. Winning only comes by advancing your position, to borrow a military phrase, according to Brian. In the book, Brian writes with a genuine passion for risk-taking. I sensed it during our interview as well. By applying imagination to a challenge, a creative solution can be developed. Risk done well can be called innovation. This "imagination + creativity + innovation" loop is what Brian describes as virtuous momentum.
Brian believes that companies must create a culture of curiosity. By being willing to explore and ask questions, leaders are able to see more clearly all the nuances of a challenge and perhaps come to a better outcome. Too often, efficiency drives us to stop asking questions, believing that we already know the answers, especially in an organization or an industry that is mature. However, Brian shares that by building in a framework that allows curiosity and disciplines the process, important insights can be discovered.
Bringing it home.
Some might not think a healthcare executive would be promoting the idea of "imagination" in all its forms. After all, we as consumers often see the healthcare industry as one giant monolithic, uninspired dinosaur.
Yet, Brian's leadership proves that imagination can be a force for good to transform organizations in today's complex business settings. Brian shares, "Imagination is about seeing what others don't see. Once you can imagine the possibilities, it is about leading to turn vision into reality and seeing all the ways to do it."