Being an Authentic Leader and a Call to Action

Dec 11, 2023 | Leadership

by Michael O’Connell

Authentic – that’s Merriam Webster’s 2023 Word of the Year. It’s a relevant word for CAHL as leaders coming out of a pandemic and dealing with many healthcare issues, including employee strikes, artificial intelligence, ransomware hacks, ghosting, gaslighting, staff and provider vacancies, and financial transparency. As Past President of CAHL, I have served most of my Board of Directors’ tenure during a pandemic with virtual board meetings, virtual educational programs, and virtual interactions with our membership. We have dedicated our volunteer time to being active listeners, strategic and operationally focused, and authentic in our approach to meeting the needs of our members.

Virtual events challenged us to be authentic in our interactions with our members. How could we provide a relevant, engaging, and convenient virtual networking session or educational program? We experimented with different options, including virtual networking sessions for new members and an open invitation to network on various topics. We tried new approaches and considered different ways to reach our members. We partnered with the Los Angeles, San Diego, and Maryland ACHE chapters to offer diverse networking sessions. We expanded our newsletter from a quarterly to monthly communication with more timely information and features on the 12 various committees that support the CAHL members. We partnered with the Los Angeles and San Diego ACHE chapters to offer a joint in-person networking session at Chicago’s annual ACHE Leadership Conference. We expanded our Board committee structure to include a Mentorship Committee recognizing the growing interest of our members to serve as either a Mentor or Mentee with other CAHL members. We partnered with the Los Angeles and San Diego chapters to offer a College Bowl event for undergraduate and graduate health care administration program students. We also explored new educational topics around diversity, inclusion, health equity, women leaders, and many more. We also sponsored one of our CAHL members to conduct a research project as part of his doctorate program focused on the mentor/mentee relationship and its value/benefit for each participant.

CAHL is one of the largest ACHE chapters in the United States, with over 1,400 members working in 50 of the 58 counties throughout California. Its vast geography and diversity have challenged us to seek appropriate member engagement throughout the State. We aspire to approach that engagement goal in many ways, and one new opportunity will be for us to host 2024 podcasts. These podcasts invite you, CAHL members, to share your unwavering commitment to authentic leadership. We want to hear how you’ve created a culture of openness and transparency paramount to the well-being of employees and patients. We want you to share your values and experiences and how they’ve shaped a culture of trust. We want to hear about your leadership journey, including the challenges you’ve faced and the lessons you’ve learned. How has your vulnerability fostered a sense of camaraderie among colleagues? How has your inclusive approach improved teamwork and enhanced patient care through a holistic understanding of healthcare challenges? We want to hear about the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare and CAHL members’ transformative leadership journeys. Recognizing the need for authenticity in navigating the complexities of modern healthcare, let’s hear about the principles and guidelines that have elevated your leadership and fostered a culture of compassion and innovation within the team.

Please let me know if you are interested in being interviewed on a podcast and sharing your leadership journey, please let me know. We want our members to learn from others about their leadership journey and how you’ve embraced today’s challenges with resilience, empathy, and innovation. We hope that these stories serve as an inspiring roadmap for healthcare leaders navigating the complex and rewarding journey of authentic leadership. 

And Happy Holidays! Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Diwali, or any other festive occasion, I wish you a joyful and peaceful season surrounded by the warmth of family and friends. May the coming year bring you happiness, good health, and success.

Michael O’Connell, MHA, FACHE, FACMPE, has held executive and operations roles with Stanford, Cleveland Clinic, Mercy Health Services, Memorial Medical Group and more. He is currently Interim Vice President of Academic Practices and Northern Region Operations for RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group. He served as the 2022 President of CAHL. Reach him at or 216-212-2895.