Hawai'i Pacific Health Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Art Gladstone was kind enough to spend some time discussing his background, approach to leadership, and thoughts on the changing demands placed on health care leaders.
Q1: What is your current role in your organization?
As Executive VP and Chief Strategy
Officer, my role is to support and advance the organization’s goals and strategies
and to convert these into actionable programs, processes, and initiatives. I
look at the established goals that are focused on the care that we provide as
well as on the work that we do in the community and help develop initiatives
around these. In this role, I oversee departments that support our strategies,
including Community and Government Relations, HR, Marketing, and Conference
Services. In working with the leadership of those departments, we align our
work efforts with leaders across Hawai‘i Pacific Health. As the healthcare
environment evolves, we look at how we can deliver care to our community that
is efficient and of the highest quality, and to developing partnerships that help
us to do that.
Q2: Can you tell us the story of your path to leadership?
I initially started college with the
intension of becoming a Physical Education teacher and a basketball coach.
However, some twists and turns led me to study nursing, and I realized that I
had a passion for it. It allowed me to apply my talent for connecting with
people – coaching, helping, encouraging. I started my nursing career with a
focus in mental health, and moved to Hawai‘i in 1990. I worked first as an ER
RN at Pali Momi, subsequently moving into management in various capacities from
the early 1990s until 2004. At that point, I was serving as COO of Pali Momi. I
moved over to Straub to serve as COO there in 2004, and eventually became Chief
Nurse Executive for HPH and later CEO of Straub and Pali Momi. I transitioned
into my current role in January 2020.
Q3: Do you have leadership philosophies?
I believe that a leader must set clear
accountabilities and then ensure that you are providing adequate support and resources
to help the people you lead accomplish what they need to achieve. I place a lot
of emphasis on mentoring. A leader should understand that people have different
levels of experience when they enter a position. Part of leading and mentoring
is identifying the areas in which they need support and guidance. People are selected
for roles based on the skills they bring. Mentoring them in other areas helps
them to grow in their roles and provides the support they need to be
Q4: What are some things you've done in terms of influencing your facility and organizations' culture?
I try to lead by example to ensure
that I’m embodying the standards and practices I advance. For instance, I
advise mentoring and frequent rounding with direct reports and employees, and I
adhere to that. I think that impacts our culture – both in demonstrating consistency
between expectations and practices and in modeling our expectations.
I also try to help the people I work
with appreciate 2 key points: first,
that we have a very important mission that’s more than just words on a wall,
but rather something that we all have to understand and embody. Second
that each person must know what his or her role is in terms of delivering on
the mission. We need to understand these two points to deliver the best care
Q5: How have your role and your activities shifted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think that the pandemic has
highlighted the importance of our strategies. My work has changed in that we
have accelerated implementation of initiatives to support those strategies. We
have needed to move quickly and nimbly to get things done. A good example is
the strategy focused on our telehealth programs. This strategy and associated
modalities, for the most part, were in place before the pandemic. We had to
accelerate the timeline and scale of the rollout in order to provide safe,
consistent care to our patients during the initial stages of the pandemic. This
involved providing physicians with information and resources, and ensuring that
support was available to enable our providers to transition care to telehealth
Additionally having worked in
operations I’ve been able to lend support and work on specific projects related
to our pandemic response. It has been
rewarding to work alongside our HPH leaders in identifying things that need to
be done, tackling the implementation of those, and monitoring the progress.
What new needs and responsibilities do you see for health care leaders at this time?
In this time when we’re moving
rapidly, the importance of crisp, clear communication is paramount. With our
telehealth video platform launch, we had to move quickly and couldn’t convene a
lot of meetings and committees. We vetted options, discussed them, made the
selection and launched quickly and efficiently. Then we ensured that we had the
ongoing support to facilitate adaptation. Frequent communication was key
because as we all know you can never over-communicate.
Leaders now more than ever need to be
visible. When we launch a program or direction, we need to be present to see
how it’s working, to get real time feedback, adapt, and provide the resources
people need to succeed.
Pandemic or not, health care is moving
at an ever faster pace – new payment systems, more efficient care delivery,
etc. We need to be able to adjust and move quickly.
How do you think health care culture and leadership will change moving forward?
I think we will see the current spirit
of innovation continue. It’s helped us to be creative and has fostered the
ability to form effective teams. We have to be able to identify a problem, put
together the right team to solve it, and support them in realizing those
solutions. Ideally we identify prospective problems in advance before they
occur. Pulling together teams from across disciplines and facilities and
empowering them to act will continue to be essential.
We’ve broken out of doing things the
way we’ve always done them, and embraced the spirit of action and innovation.
This gives people the confidence to think about how we can do things
differently in many respects, and I think this will continue.
What advice might you give those looking to develop their leadership skills and careers?
I think the first thing you must do is
understand what your talent is – what skill set you bring. Everyone has a
unique talent – perhaps how they connect with people, math and numbers, IT
abilities, great clinical skills, etc. You have to figure out what that is,
then understand where that skill fits best into your organization, how you can
employ that talent to add value to the organization.
You need to recognize what the needs
are within the organization, and how your talents align with those needs. A
position may be open that does not fit your skill set. That may not be the
right position for you, but another role will be. That being said, you need to
position yourself to step into and grow into a role. Don’t wait around for the
“perfect match”, use the skills you have, jump in, and develop the additional
skills necessary to fulfill that role. Embrace opportunities and don’t be
afraid to say yes.
I also believe in having some luck, or
rather creating your own luck, but I define luck in terms of positioning
yourself to be successful. You can create the circumstances that create the
opportunity for your success. Do your job the best you can, while broadening
your skills and knowledge. That positions you for opportunities and leads to
also have to be engaged in your organization’s mission, and figure out how you
can support others in understanding and engaging with that mission. Seek an
organization where you can be over the top passionate about the mission,
understand how your talent and passion fit best into that mission, and strive like crazy to
do the best you can to deliver on it. This is true at any level – you need to
figure out what you need to understand about your department or area to help it
best support the mission and strategies of the organization.
Any words of wisdom to share with leaders and aspiring leaders?
I would like to say that leadership is
about engaging individuals to understand what their role is in the organization
and how that role, regardless of whether it’s patient facing or not, impacts
what we do for our community and in the care that we provide. In our
organization, leadership is about drawing out the best in people, encouraging
them to always be thinking about our patients and how a leader continuously
strives to do that.
Mahalo, Art, for sharing your story and thoughts with us!