Part 2 of a 2 part interview: Kevin Hardy talks with Danny O’ Connor, Chief Executive of Western Sydney Local Health District. Danny discusses the leadership challenges and the leadership skills he looks for to shape the future in Western Sydney, and what he wants to achieve in the next five to ten years.
Kevin: What leadership challenges do the population changes in Western Sydney pose for you, because you must have put together an executive team, and you have layers of leadership. It’s not necessarily the exact same skill set that’s needed in the future. What do you look for?
Danny: The leadership challenges have exercised my mind and my energy for the last 5 years. What I look for is a leadership team that truly understands what it means to run safe and reliable services at good value for money. And I have a very powerful team that is well skilled in doing that. I’m not suggesting for one moment that our organisations are perfect in either of those respects, but they understand the agenda. What it means to support and run those organisations in that way. But further to that, I need a leadership team and I need a lot of other leaders in the organisation who understand the broader health agenda of our place in the society of Western Sydney and are prepared to reach out and comment. For example – we have a whole bunch of long term hospital endocrinologists who are highly skilled and highly prized clinicians who now spend a considerable amount of their time in the community working with and in the local General Practice for the purpose of not only further empowering those GPs and others to manage diabetes, but to push back the pre-cursers of diabetes.
Kevin: So, you are really changing the whole care model. These are exciting times and I imagine you will continue to learn through the process and make the necessary adjustments whether it’s though models of care or leadership
Kevin: Your background was originally as a psychologist. How has that helped you as a CEO?
Danny: I’m not sure. I don’t consider myself to be a well skilled or expert CEO. I do work very hard in bringing in around me a whole lot of people who are very talented. I see one of my chief objectives is to create an environment where talented people will come. Where they will understand what the overall aim of the organisation is and they will be comfortable with the values that I see as important to a well-functioning organisation. Those values being around:
- Being clear about the organisations mission
- Clear about the pathway that we need to be on and working collaboratively to get there
Kevin: Five years down the track and you’ve achieved two or three key things and you sit there five years on – what would make you smile? What would they (2-3 achievements) be about?
Danny: A couple of things:
- That groups like the Sydney Business Chamber, Western Sydney truly understand and are engaged in a program of collaborative efforts around a healthy society in the West. I actually think they are getting that. They’re talking that through and they are thinking that and are looking at ways of making that happen.
- Around somewhere like Westmead. That Westmead Health precinct of five years’ time is indeed from an operational point of view a much more integrated health precinct. It’s not just a bunch of neighbours who get on well, but rather as a health precinct it is governed as a collective, it understands that its collective is for the purpose of better creating and then delivering opportunities for good healthcare for children all the way through to older people in a hospital setting and non-hospital setting.
- We have a community in the West (five to ten years ahead) that is much more health literate that is, they truly better understand what it means to be thinking the things, doing the things and communicating the things to others about what it means to have a truly healthy lifestyle.
Kevin: So you have true partnerships. So there’s a sense of pride not just from you and your team, but also the community having a sense of pride in who they are in Western Sydney.