Tag Archives: Leadership Skills

Leadership Perspective of Jennifer Alderfer, CEO of North Suburban Medical Center

Q&A with Jennifer Alderfer, CEO of HealthONE North Suburban Medical Center and CWCC Member


How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?My mom has always been a very influential person in my life and raised me to express gratitude, show compassion, value education, and treasure connections with others.  For those reasons, I gravitated to the healthcare industry to pursue my career, where I strive to be lead both with my heart as well as with my head.  Since healthcare is a people business, I feel it’s important to lead my team in such a way that hopefully inspires them to create positive memorable experiences by honoring those we serve.

How did your previous employment experience aid in your role at North Suburban Medical Center?
In between undergraduate and graduate school, I worked as a certified nurse aide (CNA) at both a nursing home and in a hospital.  That direct patient care experience from years ago helps me keep the patient at the center of the business and operational decisions that I make in my current position as the CEO at North Suburban.  I also feel that past experience helps me, in some ways, relate more effectively to the clinicians on my team.  I sometimes tell the nurses and physicians with whom I work that I am just a “want-to-be-clinician” at heart.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am blessed to have an incredibly supportive and hands-on husband who helps care for our three children, ages 14, 12, and 10.  I couldn’t do my job and be the wife and mother that I want to be without his partnership and support.  I also try to use technology to help me balance work and home priorities.  For example, I try to leave the hospital in time to have dinner with my family, but after my kids have finished homework and gone to bed, I will log on to my email and go through other paperwork or reading from home.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at North Suburban Medical Center?
One of the challenges during my tenure at NSMC involves the transition of a patient care service provided by one physician group to another physician group.  Maintaining medical staff relationships during a time of uncertainty and unfamiliarity with a new group presented some challenges, but through the experience I was reminded of the importance of providing consistent, regular communication and status updates to those impacted by the transition.

One of the highlights during my tenure at NSMC involves the development of the business case for, design of, and opening of the Northeast ER, a freestanding emergency department that opened in May 2012 in northeast Thornton.  Being able to take this from concept to reality has been quite rewarding, especially since this emergency department provides trusted emergency care closer to the homes of some of our community members.

What advice can you offer women looking for a career in the healthcare industry?
I love working in the healthcare industry and would share with other women looking to pursue a career in healthcare that, in my experience over the past 15 years, the rewards of impacting the delivery system of patient care far outweigh any of the challenges.  I can’t think of a better career than one in which you’re able to care for others in a very real and personal way in times of physical and emotional need or vulnerability, such as during times when health issues arise.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing women in the workplace?
I think a challenge for both men and women in the workplace involves striking the delicate balance between work and personal priorities.  For women with families to care for at home, this can sometimes be an issue, as women can feel torn between the desire to have a successful and fulfilling career and the guilt that comes with not having enough time to devote to motherhood.  I also think it can be a challenge carving out time to care for oneself when busy with work.  I tend to feel my best at both work and at home when I am taking care of myself, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and eating well.  When I get off balance and stop working out and not getting enough rest, I feel as though things at both work and at home suffer.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I’ve been blessed by mentorship throughout my career.  I have found it to be helpful to have someone with more experience and professional maturity to use as a sounding board and to seek counsel on different issues.  In return, I have pledged to try to pay it forward and often try to make myself available to others in undergraduate or graduate programs or early in their career seeking guidance or wanting to hear what it’s like to do the work that I do.

On the personal side of mentorship, I have an older sister (nine years my senior) who I can talk with about raising children and balancing work and home, as she too is a professional with four children and has experienced aspects of motherhood before me.  She’ll be a great resource for me in a few years to share how to get through a high school graduation and how to send your oldest child off to college.  I remember after I   had my first baby, I called her and asked her in an admittedly rather accusatory tone why she didn’t share certain details about childbirth with me, since at that time she’d already had three of her four children.  She wisely responded that she wanted me to focus on the positive aspects of the experience and that she barely remembered the harder aspects of childbirth.  She then joked that it was why the world wasn’t full of only children families – because women were resilient and tended to hold on to the positives and let go of the negatives.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
In my first “real job” after graduate school, I worked as an administrative resident at a hospital in Wichita, Kansas.  There was a female physician executive on the team there in a vice president of medical staff affairs role.  She taught me several things about working with physicians that I still reference today, even though that was almost 14 years ago since we worked together.  She worked clinically part-time and administratively the other half of the time, was married to a physician with a busy outpatient practice of his own, and was raising three children.  I admired her ability to function at a very high level in all of her many roles – as doctor, as hospital administrator, as wife, as mom, and as friend.

I’m also fortunate to work within the HealthONE system in Denver, with many high level female executives at the division level as well as various executive levels at the hospitals within the city.  I admire many of these female colleagues for various reasons, but usually it is because they’ve achieved a high degree of success in a demanding industry but maintained a sense of themselves as individuals and not just as professionals.

The Importance of Creating a Common Vision

By Linda Brown, Director, Rocky Mountain Enterprise Sales, IBM and
CWCC Board Member


How often do we hear that an accomplished and widely admired executive is “a born leader”?  Far too often in my opinion, since no one is born with the skills required to lead effectively.  On the contrary, leadership skills are learned – and learning through experience can be quite painful!

Most children (and way too many adults) believe iron-fisted dictators are the model of effective leadership.  I’ve lived through this phase myself and seen this with my own kids.  My son, Matt enjoyed quite a few years with the Cub Scouts.   Not too many years ago, Matt’s den was planning a formal flag ceremony to commemorate their final group meeting; before moving on to the Boy Scouts.  Matt formed a noble vision of how the ceremony should go, so he executed according to his own immature view of leadership – as a petite dictator!  Matt tried to dominate the planning discussions.  He didn’t ask for feedback.   I watched in agony as the other boys’ body language slowly turned away…turned away from the project and turned away from Matt.  One by one, the boys lost interest completely.  Matt was frustrated of course, he raised his voice and pushed even harder as the other boys slunk into corners.

Ultimately, the majority rejected Matt’s plan and implemented the flag ceremony the way they had always done it before.  Matt was crushed.  I suffered through this life lesson silently, because I was a bossy little girl myself.  More than once I had tried to force my will on my friends, with the same horrible results.

With age and experience I have learned to listen more, talk less, read body language and make sure everyone understands their value to the team.  I know now that effective leaders bring out the best of everyone on the team, which is a far cry from simply dictating results!

Now, when I join a new team, one of the first things I try to do is get to know each member personally.  I want to learn their work and career goals, personal passions and what value they want to bring to the team.  I ask my teammates to share positive stories about each other and to recognize each other’s contributions.  When I am leading, I believe that it is my job to foster team respect and team unity to successfully achieve our team goal.

Matt’s not a Cub Scout anymore!  He called from college the other day to get my take on some significant discontent within his college choir.  Matt described speaking to the group about their common visions of making great music and having great fun.  He listened and helped the others listen to each other.  I’m proud to see that the painful lessons of the flag ceremony are serving him well.

How do you make sure each of your team members feels valued for their individual contributions while fostering positive team work?

Linda Brown
Director, Rocky Mountain Enterprise Sales

Linda Brown Headshot

Linda Brown is the Director of Sales for IBM’s Rocky Mountain Region. Her 27 year IBM career in Denver includes leadership positions on IBM’s largest Colorado based accounts and now she leads all client relationship activity for IBM’s clients in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming. She is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a Member of Women United at Mile High United Way and Go Red Circle of the American Heart Association of Colorado.  Linda lives in Golden with her husband of 27 years and enjoys watching her two young-adult sons grow up.

10 Essential Traits of an Everyday Leader

By Aimee Cohen, Owner, Success Coaching for Women and
CWCC Member

Aimee Cohen Logo 2013

When we think of leaders, we often think of the big names…Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Thatcher, and others. They certainly have a long list of accomplishments, have positively impacted lives around the world, and have solidified their place in the history books…but what about the rest of us?

Can we still be effective leaders without the global recognition and impact? Absolutely!

I would argue that a true leader doesn’t need a title, a political platform, or an international reach. True leadership is about character and possessing innate qualities that other people naturally want to follow and emulate.

I have coached hundreds of women, at every professional level and in every industry, and I’m so tired of hearing them question and downplay their own leadership abilities just because they “don’t sit in the corner office or occupy a seat in the c-suite.”

Given that most hiring managers and supervisors put strong leadership skills at the top of their wish list, it’s time to rethink the way we think about leadership. It’s time to celebrate, not question, our ability to lead regardless of size, scope, seniority, or span.

Ask yourself these questions to help determine if you have the 10 Essential Traits of an Everyday Leader…

  1. Do you have a clear vision that inspires others?
  2. Do you shine a bright spotlight on others’ success?
  3. Are you brave enough to voice a minority or not-so-popular opinion?
  4. Are you willing to be wrong and own your mistakes?
  5. Do you do what needs to be done without being asked?
  6. Do you surround yourself with confident people rather than “yes-men (or women!)”?
  7. Do you operate in the best interest of the group even if it’s not in your best interest?
  8. Are you willing to bear the extra burden and take a risk?
  9. Do you listen more than you speak?
  10. Are you real and authentic?

We all have opportunities in our everyday lives to step up and take the lead. Whether you volunteer your time on a professional board or at your child’s school, organize a community outreach project at work, coach a youth team, or spearhead a new idea in your industry, you can easily stand out and showcase your leadership skills.

No one starts out as a world leader and not all of us are made to be world leaders. However, that doesn’t diminish the enormous impact we can make as everyday leaders. If you’re a natural leader in your life, then embrace the role and see what a wonderful difference you can make in the lives of those around you.

Aimee Cohen
o 303.221.0888 | m 303.601.6759

Leadership is an action, not a position!

By Amy L. Shoemaker, PHR, CMC, EMBA, Kennedy and Coe, LLC and
CWCC Member

Kennedy and Coe

“The leader who leads by pointing the way leaves no footprints for his followers.”  African Proverb.

When I attained my first vice president position; Sally, another vice president, came to me and shared that she had decided that since the last 3 terminations in her department were African American employees, she no longer wanted me to send her African American applicants.  I empathized with her dilemma and then reminded Sally that the 6 terminations prior to the recent 3 were all Caucasian employees; therefore I would no longer send her Caucasian applicants either.  She cried out “you cannot do that!”  I cautioned her that she had made the rule; I was simply asking her to be consistent.  Sally responded “you’ve made your point.” She left deep in thought. The next applicant Sally hired was an African American woman who was promoted to a supervisor 6 weeks later.  Two weeks later Sally apologized for the conversation, thanked me for helping her think through her decision, and for listening to her.  Years later she continued to have a trusting and deeply respectful relationship with her supervisor.

Every day we have the choice to challenge and expand people’s thinking or to say nothing.  I have invested my career as a vice president for large corporations, in developing women and minority high potential leaders for advancement to the C-Suite.  Helping leaders develop their voice at the table and learn to influence others to grow the business has been my passion.  This experience is the foundation for the CWCC Corporate Executive Leadership Academy.  Join us to explore leadership topics, including Authentic Leadership – leading with your values and beliefs, and Compassionate Courage – communicating tough decisions to allow the employee to leave the meeting with their self-respect and dignity in tact.  These are only 2 of the many leadership topics we will explore in this exciting new Academy, created uniquely for the CWCC.

Let’s hear from you: What leadership characteristics do you look for in your future leaders?  How do you recognize those characteristics as you select leaders for promotion?

Amy L. Shoemaker, PHR, CMC, EMBA has 18 years of experience as a vice president developing leaders for growing corporations such as Cox Communications, Knight Ridder, Koch Industries Inc., Pizza Hut, Via Christi Health Systems, and Farm Credit Bank of Wichita. She attained her Executive MBA and completed the Stanford Graduate School of Business HR Executive Program. Amy currently serves clients as the Director of People Growth Strategies for Kennedy and Coe, LLC in executive coaching, leadership development and the integration of leaders and employees during mergers and acquisitions.  You can reach her at 303-993-2364 or ashoemak@kcoe.com.

Amy L. Shoemaker, PHR, CMC, EMBA
Director, People Growth Strategies
Kennedy and Coe, LLC
Loveland:  970-685-3415
Denver:     303-993-2364

About Kennedy and Coe, LLC
Founded in 1932, Kennedy and Coe, LLC serves clients domestically and internationally from offices in Kansas, Colorado, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Washington D.C. Ranked one of the top 100 largest accounting and consulting firms in the U.S., more than 200 Kennedy and Coe professionals deliver creative ideas and valuable results to clients in the industries of food and agriculture, biofuels, construction, financial institutions, manufacturing, and professional services. The firm is named a Best Accounting Firm to Work For in 2012 by Accounting Today. For more information, visit www.kcoe.com.

Leadership 101: Three Fundamental Skills for Leaders

By Andrea Pitman, Owner, Executive Director and People Development Expert, The Nectar  Group and CWCC Member


“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” J.F.K.

How does one even begin to learn something that seems so intangible like leadership? We hear about “natural born leaders” but is this reality? Are people just born with some innate ability that makes others get in line behind them?  It takes a lot of study, hard work, practice, and even some trial and error to become a successful leader.

Leadership requires three fundamental skills and these must be developed to the point that they seem natural. First, leaders must be able to Craft a Vision. This is being able to imagine an improved future state that a group will make into a reality through its efforts. Second, leaders must be able to Build Alignment. This is the ability to bring everyone in the group to a full understanding of the vision and gain their commitment to the direction that is being taken. Third, leaders are excellent at Championing Execution.  This means that they ensure that the conditions are present for the vision to be turned into a reality.

Neuroscience teaches that in order for a skill to become one’s default, as if you were born with it, it must reach a level of Automaticity. For this to occur, you must first develop a thorough understanding of the skill. Second, the new ability must be practiced until mastery is achieved. Then, by using the new skill consistently it becomes automatic! What took a lot of work will now look like it is an innate skill…like a born leader!

In the CWCC Transformational Leadership Program, participants have the opportunity to learn Leadership Best Practices, assess how their own skills measure up and learn practical tools for developing these skills. For more information visit:

Andrea Pitman
Executive Director and People Development Expert
The Nectar Group
Developing People with the Brain in Mind
Office: 303-333-3248

About Andrea Pitman
Andrea Pitman is a People Development Expert and owner of The Nectar Group. She is a Wiley Everything DiSC Authorized Partner, Clarity International Certified Shift Faculty Member, and a Master Certified Cognitive Brain Trainer with teaching certification. Andrea brings over 15 years of experience working with professionals, businesses, and families through cognitive brain training, consulting, and teaching.

The Nectar Group unlocks potential by providing personal and professional development for individuals and teams. With an assessment driven, custom approach based on neuroscience, The Nectar Group provides one-on-one cognitive brain training for clients ages 4 years old through senior adults to raise IQ and increase performance for greater success in work, school, and life. With business teams, The Nectar Group provides a unique approach to improving individual and team performance in the areas of workplace culture, sales, leadership, and management.

Career Advice from U2

By Christina Schlachter, PhD | CEO She Leads, Author of Leading Business Change for Dummies, and CWCC Member

I am a big U2 fan. This past year my husband and I saw U2 on their 360 tour at Mile High in Denver. I first saw U2 in 1987 when they played to a crowd of about 10,000 at the Assembly Hall in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. My husband and I also saw Bono, Larry, the Edge, and Adam jam together in Honolulu on our Babymoon back in 2006.

Their concert last year made me think: if a rock band can stay together for close to three decades, AND  have the ability to entertain a high school girl, a pregnant lady, and a couple on a date night, they have to be doing something right – and it is not just music. You don’t need a blogger to tell you that, right? I may not be a rock star, but these boys from Dublin have taught me a few valuable leadership skills.

1)      Treat everyone equally. According to those in the “know”, Adam, Larry, the Edge, and Bono all make the same amount of money. Yes, Bono is by and large a household name for U2 fans, and I have never been behind the scenes with my favorite rockstars, but Bono seems quite genuine when he tells the crowd he is in Larry Mullen Jr.’s band. If you want to build your own team of rock stars, everyone’s opinion and talents must be valued – both verbally and financially.

2)      Show up and perform every time. Anyone who has been at a U2 concert knows they do not “phone it in.” These guys come and they work their butt off. Leaders cannot expect to last for 3 decades if they do not do the work, expect others to do it for them, or assume their hard work in the past will make up for slacking today.

3)      Try new things, but if you do not succeed, stick to your strengths. Intentionally or not, I loved U2 in 87, I loved them in the 2000’s and I love them now. However, like many fans, Zooropa was, well just a little out there. I give U2 credit for trying something new, but their classics, new and old, are what make people get up, dance, scream, and buy tickets again and again. As a leader, there is no harm in pushing the envelope, but if your idea does not work, go back to what your customers love.

4)      Have purpose and show it. It should be no surprise that U2, especially Bono, is passionate about the One campaign and Amnesty International.  He is not just a rock star, he really does want to change the world. Whatever your passion and purpose, share it with everyone, care about something, and let your values guide every action you make.

Yes, U2 is a rock band. For some people that is all they need to be. As with everything in life, I always look for what I can learn from others, and since I cannot think of any other product or service I would pay 2x’s the value (or more) to see again and again over 3 decades, it is nice to know I can learn something about leadership from these boys from Ireland. Have a Beautiful Day!

About Dr. Christina Schlachter, PhD, is the Founder and Chief Leader of She Leads and is the author of Leading Business Change for Dummies (Wiley, 2012).  As the Leading Change Expert, she deliver sreal-world coaching for leaders who are tired of too much fire-fighting and are ready to create meaningful, positive, and lasting change. Used successfully by thousands of leaders worldwide, Christina’s matter-of-fact 12-week turnaround process has cemented her role in helping leaders reinvent both themselves and their companies.