StarTribune: A Salute to the Mayo Clinic’s Retiring Servant-Leader

How Dr. John Noseworthy’s mission-focused approach can aid Minnesota’s world-class medical sector and other fields as well. 

By Bill George and Richard Davis

Minnesota has earned a national and global reputation for its leadership in health care, research, medical innovation and the biosciences. Minnesotans can take great pride in knowing that millions of people throughout the world have had their lives improved due to medical technology, devices, new treatments and clinical care that have been pioneered and delivered by Minnesota companies and institutions.

Leadership requires visionary and talented leaders, and we applaud the achievements of the leader of one of Minnesota’s most important institutions, Dr. John Noseworthy of Mayo Clinic. Noseworthy recently announced that he will retire at the end of this year, capping a successful nine-year tenure as CEO and president. As trustees of Mayo Clinic, we have observed firsthand Noseworthy’s leadership and can share some insights as to what his approach offers others, whether in health care or other sectors.

Building from a powerful mission

Companies and other organizations can quickly drift off-course when they lose sight of their fundamental purpose and mission. Mayo’s core value statement is very clear and powerful: “The needs of the patient come first.” But this value statement is much more than a marketing slogan; Mayo “walks the talk” in how this patient-focus mission dominates every aspect of the Mayo culture. Noseworthy has not only protected this core value but has ensured that it remains contemporary and is lived and strengthened, despite a dynamic and rapidly changing business environment.

Developing Mayo leaders

Mayo’s governance is unique in that it specifies the CEO must be a physician promoted from within Mayo Clinic. This requirement helps ensure that a new CEO is one who clearly appreciates and embraces the Mayo mission, values and culture that so powerfully define Mayo’s holistic approach to serving patients. Noseworthy has worked to develop and nurture the next generation of servant leaders who will extend Mayo’s important mission into future years.

Financial integrity

Health care is experiencing one of the most challenging business environments of any sector of our economy. More than ever, a health care leader needs to possess the insights and skills to lead a complex organization through dynamic change. Under Noseworthy’s tenure, the annual revenue and employment of Mayo Clinic have grown while significant investments have been made to support the clinical practice, research and educational missions as well as investments in Mayo staff and benefits. Mayo innovates to refine the critical aspect of patient care delivery and is in a better position to navigate the challenging health care market as it continues to change and challenge providers in future years.

Enhancing a Minnesota legacy

Last year, Mayo Clinic provided care to more than a million patients from all 50 states and nearly 140 countries and once again was ranked the No. 1 hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Now employing over 41,000 Minnesotans, Mayo has emerged as Minnesota’s largest employer. Not one to rest on past success, Noseworthy launched a visionary initiative — Destination Medical Center (DMC) — to further position Rochester as the leading global destination for the highest quality health care and wellness. This 20-year, $5.6 billion private investment in Rochester will ultimately generate over 30,000 new jobs and several billion dollars in new state and local tax revenues.

We congratulate Dr. John Noseworthy on a successful tenure in helping guide Minnesota’s leading health care institution through a challenging business environment, protecting the all-important mission of Mayo Clinic and demonstrating what truly defines servant-leadership.

Bill George and Richard Davis are both members of the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees. George is the former chair and CEO of Medtronic and is currently senior fellow at the Harvard Business School. Richard Davis is the former president and CEO of U.S. Bancorp and currently serves as its executive chairman.

This content was originally posted on on 3/3/18.