Transformational leadership in health care: Patricia Howard shares her journey
A proven leader in the health care industry, Patricia Howard has culminated a deep understanding of what it takes to “make health care right for all” during the course of her career, which began when she was a data entry specialist at Prudential Insurance. From core health plan administrative and clinical operations to hospital revenue cycle management, Patricia’s impressive path has fueled her passion to achieve holistic health care and an end-to-end operating model that meets people where they are and influences better health outcomes in the community.
For the last few months, Patricia has been immersed in her new role as chief operations officer at Point32Health – leading the operations and technology strategy, programs and investments, and driving a range of initiatives that will improve business processes and company performance. When looking back on what ultimately led her to Point32Health, she often reflects on her own journey to becoming a leader.
Read on for Patricia’s take on transformational leadership, the qualities she attributes to an effective team and the advice she’d share for women who are looking to excel in their careers:
Paving the way for change
At a young age, my teacher, now best friend, Ms. Bailey, asked me while walking in downtown Newark, New Jersey, what I wanted to be when I grew up. I pointed to two insurance companies and replied, “I’d like to work in a large company.” She followed with a piece of advice, which still applies today, “set goals and work hard—you will achieve them.”
It was then that I discovered my ambition and the notion of controlling my destiny. My first job while in college was in health care. I realized then the complexities of health care and my desire to serve as an advocate in the health care industry grew. I knew that I wanted to help make it simpler. The opportunity to improve the health care and the lives of others, and to work alongside those who shared a passion for making health care right for all, drove my will to make impactful change in the industry.
My leadership model is one that’s been carefully constructed with the traits of those who I’ve admired in my career, and from the attributes of leaders in history, like Martin Luther King Jr., who have united and encouraged others to work together for the common good.
I’ve spent a lot of time observing the qualities of impactful leaders in every room. For example, I’ve witnessed someone who is quiet during a meeting and writing things down to be learning—someone who is bold that may need to get people behind them to achieve a goal—and someone who is quick to analyze a scenario come up with creative ideas.
In health care, transformational leaders are key contributors to create a culture of innovation and to help a team work differently. Leading with compassion and empathy can ultimately help guide and empower healthier lives and improve health outcomes for our members and communities.
Building a diverse team
At Point32Health, we know we must bring multiple perspectives to the table to serve a greater population and actively listen to our community. That is the only way forward to finding solutions that improve the health of the people we serve. When you have a group of diverse people who can offer up their own unique experiences and backgrounds, I believe that the possibilities are unlimited. It is the only way forward to create quality solutions that work for everyone, no matter a person’s age, health, race, identity or income.
In the video below, I share more about my view on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the role each plays in every decision we make as a health plan.
Advice to women who are focused on advancement
I enjoy having the opportunity to share experience as a Black woman in the health care industry, the importance of servant leadership, and my advice to other women who are looking to live out their dreams. Here’s my guidance:
- Surround yourself with diverse voices. It helps you to gain multiple perspectives and experiences.
- Be purposeful about your careers and know that every part of the journey is necessary.
- Take the pen and write your own story.
- To whom much is given, much will be required. We are natural born authentic leaders. It’s your secret sauce, serve it.
- Never let anyone tell you that you cannot be a businesswoman, an activist, a mother, and a wife.
I often look back to this powerful article in Forbes, ‘When Black Women Lead, We All Win,’ for inspiration from the work of some of the most important Black women leaders over the years. The article states, “Black women’s leadership isn’t just about their strength and perseverance. It’s about how consistently they show up and fight for the common good.”
If you are looking for inspiration or would like to learn more about transformational leadership:
- Execution, by Larry Bossidy & Ram Charam – this book offers sound and practical advice on how to get things done.
- My Life in Full by Indra Nooyi – this book dives into balancing work and family through the lens of Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo.
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek – this book reminds you of the importance of your why and what for fulfilling your why.
- “Take You Wherever You Go” – this quote by Melody Hobson, president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments has always stuck with me. When you are yourself, you are at your best.
- “Keep it moving” – we all are juggling so many activities daily, but especially as working mothers. This quote is something I live by in both my personal and professional life.
- How to balance professional and personal life
- The art of emotional intelligence as a leader