Medical Center Moves the Entire Organization From Good to Great

Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader™ guides University Medical Center towards more effective leadership.


The Organization Development & Training team at a renowned University Medical Center wasn’t satisfied. The Medical Center was consistently ranked among the top dozen medical centers in the United States as rated by U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals” and near the top of all medical schools in federal research funding. But many of the medical center’s leaders felt compelled, amid healthcare’s ever-increasingly competitive landscape, to take their operation to the next level.

As an academic medical center, there was a strong desire to learn. They recognized that if they wanted to keep improving, they needed to provide their leaders with the necessary skills and tools. Moving the entire organization forward would require leaders who were up to the challenge and a leadership development program that could help get them there. The team agreed they wanted a leadership development program with these three components:

  • A competency-based model
  • A research-based, valid, and reliable 360-degree feedback instrument
  • A systematic approach to leadership development

The Solution

A member of the team had been impressed by Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader™ approach. It met their three criteria and further appealed to the medical center’s executives because of the research behind the product. The program relies on decades of research and over 200,000 detailed statistical profiles from more than 25,000 managers in a wide range of companies and industries.

The Medical Center’s first Extraordinary Leader development experience included the top eight executive leaders in the organization—the CEO, CFO, and others—and the next level of senior leadership, about 50 people in all. After achieving leadership buy-in, this leadership development experience is now offered four times annually. Employees from all parts of the medical center attend, including food services, environmental services, patient care, nurse administration, and physicians in leadership roles.


Extraordinary Leader is now embedded in the learning culture of the Medical Center. “It has been received extremely well. Leaders give us very positive feedback about their experience,” says one of the members of the Organization Development & Training team. The Extraordinary Leader’s reputation for success has led to its adoption by other units of the broader University, such as its office of financial management.

Since then, 627 of the organization’s leaders have completed the 360-assessment and development experience. Ninety-seven percent of the participants agreed—with 80 percent strongly agreeing—that “The design of this course (teaching methods, activities, materials) provided an effective way for me to learn this subject matter.” Similar percentages also agreed that the facilitators were effective at delivering the material. More importantly, we wanted to know what impact The Extraordinary Leader initiative had on the organization, its leaders, and its employees. The Medical Center’s dataset of 627 leaders in Health Care was analyzed and uncovered powerful results. Research reveals the dramatic effect that leadership effectiveness has on employee engagement. In the chart below, you see that the best leaders have the most highly engaged employees.

This next study looks at leadership’s impact on discretionary effort. It is clear that the most effective leaders are able to inspire the highest commitment from their employees.

Participants have hailed the emphasis on building strengths. People remember that The Extraordinary Leader is trying to get them to focus on building on a strength instead of focusing on a weakness. This focus also translates into how they lead their own departments and teams, in terms of not just looking at problem areas but also looking at and building on successes. The Extraordinary Leader is now a core component of the Medical Center’s training regimen. Efforts are now focused on their next goal—taking it to the next level.

The Challenge

  • Highly ranked Medical Center sought to achieve even better results and needed improved leadership to make this happen.

The Solution

  • Chose Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader because of its basis in solid research, competency-based model, and 360-degree feedback component.

The Results

  • CEO and other top executives hailed the program after participating.
  • Ninety-seven percent of the workshop participants have agreed—with 80 percent strongly agreeing—that it is effective at developing their leadership skills.
  • The Medical Center’s dataset of 627 leaders in Health Care clearly demonstrates that the effectiveness of leaders has a dramatic effect on the engagement level of their direct reports. It has positively impacted the percentage of employees who are thinking about quitting and the discretionary effort of employees.

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