Addressing the First State’s business leaders, Robert J. Laskowski, M.D., MBA, shared his insights on what helped him achieve unprecedented success during his 11-year tenure as president and CEO of Christiana Care.
Listening is the most crucial attribute for a leader to be successful, Dr. Laskowski said, during his talk Oct. 28 at the University and Whist Club in Wilmington to an audience of nearly 100 business and community leaders. The event — “Dr. Laskowski’s Reflections on Partnering with our Community” — was co-hosted by Christiana Care and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
The ability to listen helps in all facets of a health care system, he said. At the clinical level, doctors who listen to patients build trust and possess the key knowledge to provide them with the most appropriate care. At the CEO level, it is vital to listen to the community, as the feedback they provide helps leaders make wise decisions on how to best serve their neighbors for decades to come.
“Listening to our neighbors, our community and my colleagues helped ground me and helped frame our mission at Christiana Care,” Dr. Laskowski said.
Community feedback helped guide his decisions to build the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, the Center for Heart and Vascular Health at Christiana Hospital, the Middletown Emergency Department and the $210 million transformation of the Wilmington Hospital campus.
“All those ideas came from listening to the needs of the community,” he said.
Listening also gave birth to The Christiana Care Way: “We serve our neighbors as respectful, expert, caring partners in their health. We do this by creating innovative, effective, affordable systems of care that our neighbors value.”
“Our first objective is to serve our neighbors,” he said. “That is why it’s the first part of The Christiana Care Way — because everything starts with serving our neighbors. The second part of The Christiana Care Way explains how we serve them.”
The serve-first philosophy shaped how Laskowski viewed his role as the CEO and president of Christiana Care, the state’s largest private employer. Through “servant leadership” — a philosophy developed by the late Greenville, Del., resident Robert Greenleaf — a leader focuses first on ensuring that the highest priority needs of the people who work under him are met.
As Laskowski put it: “Leadership is helping other people do what they are good at.”
Because of Dr. Laskowski’s commitment to the community, Richard Heffron, president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, said that “Dr. Bob has become a household name in Delaware.”
“He has made some tremendous changes during his time at Christiana Care,” Heffron said. “The greatest changes and innovations that I’ve seen in my lifetime have been in medicine and science, and those tremendous changes have occurred because of people like Dr. Bob.”