News From Our Perspective

Navigate the Healthcare System with Ease

Jun 2017

What Makes a Likeable Healthcare CEO?

Well, it’s here. What we all have been waiting for since last year: Owler’s 2017 “National CEO Likeability Study” of executives in the healthcare industry. Who does not like lists?

Owler, a community-based business insights platform that takes the form of a blog, evaluated thousands of CEO reviews on its website. For inquiring minds, the company’s algorithm weighed the website CEO reviews with additional input from employees, followers, competitors and other stakeholders weighted differently.

Owler focused on CEOs “leading notable companies located in cities with over 5,000 companies, regardless of size, and the sample set has been further reduced to include only companies that are actively updated and followed by the Owler Community.”

Owler stated why they feel the survey is important on their blog website and said, “While the news is full of stories about egregiously high CEO compensation and other stories that might portray CEOs in a bad light, it’s important to remember CEOs are human too. They are either loved, hated or somewhere in between. In some small way, how much we all like the people who lead us tells as much about us as it does about our leaders. Why would we tolerate leaders we don’t like? What does it mean if we reward unlikeable people with our highest paying and most prestigious positions? How is it that some CEOs manage to do a lot of heavy lifting, with tons of pressure on them, and stay in our good graces?”

Oh, and Owler has a goal of holding CEOs publicly accountable for their actions. The phenomenon behind Owler’s CEO ranking data is likely putting increased pressure on CEOs to be nicer. In the old days, a CEO could be abusive to individuals and likely not be held accountable. After all, who would find out? Probably nobody, especially if the company was doing well financially.

These days, websites like Owler allow the public to weigh in on whether a CEO is doing a good job or not. The Internet provides full transparency. It’s no different from a hotel that offers poor service hoping it will stay in business because new customers will keep coming through the lobby door. In the era of Yelp and Expedia reviews, that is no longer possible.

CEOs play a large role in the success or failure of a hospital. In the post-Affordable Care Act environment, CEOs face increasing demands regarding their time and responsibilities. So exactly what skills are critical for a hospital CEO in today’s world?

Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder of San Diego is a highly regarded leader who rose from a police force to the director of a system that continually makes Fortune’s annual Top 100 list of best places to work. Van Gorder gladly shared his collected management principles and philosophies that play large roles in creating a likeable CEO with Becker’s Hospital Review.

  1. Don’t just be a name — be a face. It’s difficult — if not impossible — for leaders to gain the respect and trust of their employees if they aren’t willing to go out and meet them. Van Gorder believes the key to establishing the mutual trust that keeps employees engaged is taking the time to meet them, listen to their ideas and concerns and learn from them.
  2. Be an accessible and prompt communicator. Van Gorder is a famously quick email responder and does not hide his contact information. He is notorious for his ability to remain in constant contact with his Scripps executive team and staff. For him, timely email communication is a sign of respect.
  3. Be strategic, but be flexible. “The No. 1 thing is being flexible because of all of the changes taking place. I learned a long time ago that strategy is not linear — it must be flexible as the market changes,” Van Gorder said.
  4. Contribute to the community in your own way. Van Gorder volunteers between 500 and 1,000 hours a year with the San Diego sheriff’s department, where he serves as a reserve assistant sheriff. The Scripps CEO believes every leader should look for ways to combine their passions with community service.
  5. Prepare for the worst. All leaders hope for the best, but it is their duty to prepare for the worst. Van Gorder’s police background conditioned him to always be alert and think about safety for both Scripps’ staff and patients, including practicing “active shooter” drills in the event of a gunman on campus.

So, without further adieu – or grades – here are the top 10 most liked CEOs in the healthcare industry, as ranked by the study ( If interested in looking into more behind the CEO rankings, a deeper dive may be found at

  1. Timothy Ring, Murray Hill, N.J.-based Bard
  2. Stanley Bergman, Melville, N.Y.-based Henry Schein
  3. R. Milton Johnson, Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare
  4. Stephen Hemsley, Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth Group
  5. Howard Messing, Westwood, Mass.-based Meditech
  6. Joacim Lindoff, Sweden-based Getinge
  7. Larry Renfro, Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Optum
  8. Kevin Lobo, Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Stryker
  9. Roger Krone, Reston, Va.-based Leidos
  10. Derek Newell, Mountain View, Calif.-based Jiff

Our Partners Have a Combined Legal Experience of Over 100 Years

Meet our experts