August 27, 2019

On August 15, 1969, half a million people gathered on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, for what would become one of the biggest events in music history – Woodstock.

The idea behind the first Woodstock musical festival was to raise enough money to build a recording studio in Woodstock, New York. But the three days that unfolded between August 15 and 18 far exceeded anyone’s expectations and became a cultural touchstone in American history.

My wife Shannon and I recently watched the Netflix documentary Woodstock: Three days that defined a generation, and we were awed by how so many people from all over the country and world were able to gather in one place, listen to some of the greatest musicians in history, and celebrate peace, love and tolerance during such a turbulent time in America’s history.

The peaceful nature of such a large crowd during a time of national unrest made me think of another historic moment – the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 56 years ago today. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his riveting “I Have a Dream” speech that day to more than 250,000 people. The speech called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States using some of the most eloquent and inclusive language I have ever heard.

OTM_MLK_Servant Leadership

While the tone of this iconic speech is stern and resolute, there is the overall feeling that the ideal of equality for all must be reached together, not apart. Not by pushing people away, not by calling each other names, and not by taking out our personal frustrations on people who are just trying to go about living their daily lives.

Dominated by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, the 1960s also saw the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. Yet, even though rife with conflict and uncertainty, there still seemed to be more of an undertone of peace, love and tolerance in the messages spoken during that time versus so much of what we hear today.

I know the world we live in now is very different from the one in which I grew up, but I am an optimist, and I believe that peace, love and tolerance will prevail. I see these characteristics intertwined in the fabric of our culture at Texas Children’s, and it gives me hope. The diverse and inclusive culture we’ve created here, and the tireless work we do side by side to care for all children and women from every walk of life continue to inspire me.

In honor of the anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, I am re-sharing a video I first posted on his birthday earlier this year.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. video

The video contains a brief excerpt of his speech and a few of his quotes that continue to guide me every day. I hope they instill in you the same feeling of hope and unity they give me.

January 31, 2019

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave one of his most famous speeches and spurred the United States toward one of our most decisive endeavors in history.

In his address that day, Kennedy outlined plans to greatly expand our space program. He told the audience we would lead the race for space and put a man on the moon before the end of the decade – a feat that would test the limits of human ingenuity and scientific innovation like nothing before.

Needless to say, his vision became reality – seven years later, we put a man on the moon. Since then, we’ve sent satellites to the far reaches of the galaxy and beyond. Most recently, we landed rovers on the surface of Mars. And it began right here in Houston – an ambitious pursuit of a mission fulfilled by the pioneering spirit of our city’s people.

If you look out from Taussig Auditorium in our beautiful new Texas Children’s Heart Center on the 16th floor of Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower, you can see Rice Stadium just a few blocks to the north –  the place where President Kennedy gave his aspirational speech that day and called the people of Houston to action. It gives me chills to think about it. And it’s impossible for me to think about that incredible moment in history and not draw a parallel to another historic day when the people of Houston saw a bold vision through to reality.

It was February 1, 1954 – the day Texas Children’s Hospital first opened its doors.

1954 Texas Children's Hospital exterior -2-

That was 65 years ago today. It might seem like a long time ago, but when you consider that the nation’s other top hospitals have been around for 130-plus years, it’s pretty astounding to think about what we’ve accomplished … in half the time.

We opened with a single three-story building, housing 106 patient beds. We had 4,558 encounters that first year. Today, our hospitals house 959 patient beds, and we’re the largest and most comprehensive pediatric and women’s health care organization in the nation. Between Houston, Austin and College Station, we’re providing care in more than 90 locations, including Texas Children’s Pediatrics, Urgent Care and OB/Gyn practices, Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinics, Texas Children’s Specialty Care Clinics, and The Centers for Children and Women. And we had more than 4.3 million patient encounters across the Texas Children’s system in 2018.

In only 65 years, we’ve been the first to achieve some of the most astonishing breakthroughs in pediatric health care. As I think of our milestones and achievements, I am filled with immense pride. I feel humbled and honored to share in the legacy of Texas Children’s and to be a part of history with all of you. It’s our one amazing team that makes these miracles happen every day.

So celebrate and make a big, bold wish for Texas Children’s today … we’ve proven we can achieve anything we imagine.

Happy 65th birthday Texas Children’s!

Click here to watch a video highlighting our accomplishments over the past six plus decades.

January 22, 2019

On Monday, communities throughout the nation paused to remember the tireless efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to celebrate his rich legacy. In honor of Dr. King, I’d like us to remember his selfless actions and powerful words. In the video linked below, I’m sharing a brief excerpt of his soul-stirring “I have a dream” speech and just a few of his quotes that continue to guide me to this very day.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. video

Through peaceful actions and with infinite courage, Dr. King led a movement that forever changed the world. And even today, his memory and his words are like a balm that both soothes and inspires.

I hope you enjoyed Martin Luther King Day and that you paused, if only for a moment, to remember his dream.

September 23, 2018

Maxim no. 6: “Leaders lead people; managers manage an asset, process or thing.”

Leadership Maxim No. 6 is one of my favorite maxims because it highlights two distinct, yet very important, skills that are essential to running an organization like Texas Children’s – leading and managing. With more than 14,000 employees across our system, it takes exceptional leaders and managers throughout every level of the organization to ensure we deliver the best care to our patients.

I spend most of my time leading people, but I also spend a lot of time managing our organization’s operations. People often ask me: What is the difference between leadership and management? I believe the primary difference between management and leadership is that leaders don’t need to be in a management position or have a specific title. Anyone can be a leader.

Alex Sardual is a great example of an outstanding leader and manager. Alex has been with us for a little over a year and is currently the assistant clinical director for the PICU in Legacy Tower. He leads a team of more than 200 employees, including patient care managers and unit-based nursing educators who oversee the day-to-day clinical operations of the PICU. He also manages the human resources, financial and administrative functions in the unit.

Alex has an outstanding leadership philosophy: a leader is someone who believes in and nurtures his or her team and helps them clear the path to success. These principles guide Alex as he cultivates a work environment that engages, encourages and empowers his team. He understands the personal goals of his staff and directs them to areas or projects that keep them challenged, engaged and aligned with our goals as an organization.

Alex believes that if you make sure your staff is acknowledged and they feel heard, they will be empowered to come up with creative solutions to resolve any work challenges that may arise. I completely agree with him.

When Alex prepared his team for the move to Legacy Tower, many members of his team were apprehensive about how everything would work and the planned cohorting of patients and teams. Alex made sure to engage his team and gave everyone an opportunity to provide their suggestions and feedback and then ensured their thoughts were included in the Legacy Tower PICU plans. He and his team replicated what worked well in the old environment and changed some things for a better fit in the new environment.

Throughout it all, Alex kept his team informed and updated and made sure to translate the concerns of his staff back to the leadership team. Alex says he sees himself as the guardian of positive thinking – some days it’s easy to show the bright side of things, and other times, you have to point out the silver lining. That’s perceptive leadership and solid management.

I’d like to hear from you … how do you balance leading and managing in your role?

Take the leadership challenge, and score a spot at a Houston Texans event!

Over the past few weeks, Mark Wallace’s blog has been highlighting employees who demonstrate his Maxims of Leadership. Each blog post poses a leadership question that Texas Children’s employees may respond to in the comments section until October 19. 

Afterward, the Corporate Communications team will randomly select 75 people from the comments to attend a private event with the Houston Texans, including a behind-the-scenes tour of NRG Stadium, an autograph session with two Houston Texans football players and photos with the Texans cheerleaders.