Dr. Sue Mooney Speaks to Dartmouth Health’s Emerging Leaders Employee Resource Group

Left to right: Carole Gaudet (APD); Sue Mooney, MD (APD); Rachel Charlton (New London Hospital, Abigail Berge-Clogston (Dartmouth-Hitchcock); David Watts (APD)

Sue Mooney, MD, MS, CEO and President of Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, was guest speaker for this month's Emerging Leaders ERG "Coffee With..." Dr. Mooney drew a crowd of 35, in person and via Webex, eager to hear her thoughts on leadership.

According to Dr. Mooney, “Leadership isn’t telling people what to do. It’s setting direction, purpose, and values, and then creating the conditions where people can succeed.”

“Every leader must arrive at their own their own values.” A key part of leadership for Dr. Mooney’s, and one that she is not willing to compromise, is projecting respect for employees. “Respect is huge. You can’t fake it – it has to be a core value. You can’t care for patients unless you care for people.”

Once you have arrived at your purpose, and values, she said, “You don’t talk about it. You just live it.”

A key learning step in Dr. Mooney’s leadership journey was discovering “complexity theory,” which helps to explain how to lead a complex organization.

 “You can’t run organizations like hospitals from the top down. You need simple rules, values, and a common direction.”

To illustrate, Dr. Mooney used the example of a flock of birds, flying in complicated patterns yet staying together.

“Is there a CEO bird? No. There are just a few simple rules. ‘Fly south, and don’t hit one of the other birds.’ If you do that, you’ll get there.”

“Everyone at APD does complex things in their own lives, she said. Raising kids, participating in communities, and more. “When they come to work, instead of telling people what to do, we give them simple, solid guidelines so they can make good decisions.”

Sources of passion outside of work include her partner and her children, taking care of herself (she works out daily and loves being outside), and reading.

At work, a source of deep satisfaction for Dr. Mooney is other people’s success. “I love it when APD employees win awards and recognition. That goes back to my definition of leadership and creating the conditions where people can succeed.”

Final advice on getting through challenging times? “Stay with it, progress by trial and error, be willing to hear feedback, and learn from your mistakes. There will be hard times. To progress, you have to be able to learn from adversity.”