THE BLOG

Defining a Leader: A CEO's Perspective

08/27/2013 04:26 pm ET | Updated Oct 27, 2013

As CEO of one of the country's largest pediatric hospitals, my focus is on the thousands of people we touch daily -- our employees, our patients, and their families. I work for the cardio nurse, the pediatric surgeon and those who often go unrecognized, such as the janitor or the administrator. But I often wonder, what does being CEO really mean? The obvious response is Chief Executive Officer, but the more complex definition is one I have pondered constantly over my 32 years as an executive.

I began exploring the idea in earnest in my mid-20s when a colleague asked what I believed defined to a great leader. I drew a blank. At that moment, I was compelled to construct a definition for myself. It took me over a year of reading, writing and contemplation until I crafted a satisfactory definition. Leadership is, "Vision + Structure + People" with people by far being the most important element.

To be a successful leader and a true innovator, one must first be a visionary. This may be the most innate aspect of my definition -- to have vision and be motivated by an instinctual drive, is not a learned skill but rather honed over time. The second component is structure, a term for the foundation on which a leader builds his or her mission. A strong structure, or foundation, keeps a leader grounded while also providing the space and time needed to remain a creative visionary. And finally, people. People are single-handedly the most important ingredient. The team you've built to achieve your common vision will define your tenure as a leader. The colleagues you have committed to leading will ultimately be the most important factor in the entire equation.

While these three components have laid the foundation for my work at Texas Children's Hospital, there is no universal definition of leadership. Everyone should create their own definition based on whom they aspire to be, how they want to lead, their personality, and their core set of values. Ultimately, harnessing your own individual meaning of what makes a leader is the foundation to becoming a great leader yourself, not only in your professional life but in your personal life as well -- a question worth contemplating.

For a more intensive study of this topic visit, "Mark A. Wallace Leadership Maxims"; a video series with a focus on leadership and my experiences as CEO of Texas Children's Hospital.