The Love Letter and the Mirror

A colleague recently asked what prompted me to write my new book. As she listened to my answer, she beamed and said, “it sounds like a love letter to your clients.”

Really? I have to admit that her way of seeing Leading Valiantly caught me by surprise. Still, I pondered the truth of that characterization. Is that what Leading Valiantly is about for me?

I decided the answer is yes and no.  The “yes” honors the almost palpable inspiration I feel as I continue partnering with healthcare leaders of all stripes. The privilege of working with literally thousands of these leaders over the course of three decades has put me in a position to see what they do when the stakes are high. I have seen them in extremely tough circumstances – sometimes literally life and death situations – and I have seen how they respond when they must do their best work, no matter what.


As I contemplated writing Leading Valiantly early on, I was stirred by many recollections of their fortitude, compassion, and even grit when obvious answers and clear choices were simply not there.

So, that’s the “yes” answer, but there is a “no” answer, too. The book is not a love letter to my clients or for my clients, because – to me – the book is a mirror. It is a reflection of what these people do, over and over again, when they are in the live action of healthcare leadership. The book articulates how I see them practice, live authentically and lead with the full complement of their skills, their commitments, and their values.

It slows down the work of running healthcare for just a few moments. It examines the reality of being a committed, but imperfect, human being who is bringing the best she or he has to the table. It offers perspective and language that describes what the best leaders – valiant leaders – do when it matters most, and when they refuse to get swept up in drama, posturing, and false urgency.

Is Leading Valiantly a love letter or a mirror?  It’s both.

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