Leading large system change: A lecture by Dr. David Pryor for the IU Kelley Business of Medicine MBA Program


Dr. David Pryor believes in authentic leadership—a trait, he says, not only means being honest and authentic, but also having the ability to understand, relate, and resonate with the people he is working with.

“Leaders set values; values drive behaviors, and behaviors create a culture that delivers a performance,” said Pryor, who will be the inaugural speaker in the Kelley Business of Medicine MBA Class of 2016 Lecture Series.

David Pryor, MD is the executive vice president and chief clinical officer of Ascension, the largest private nonprofit healthcare system in the U.S., and president and CEO of Ascension Clinical Holdings, an Ascension subsidiary. He was named by Becker’s Hospital Review to its “100 Hospital and Health System CMOs to Know in 2016” list. He also served as CIO of Allina, as president of the New England Medical Center Hospitals in Boston, and as director of the cardiology consultation service at Duke University Medical Center for the first decade of his career. Today, Dr. Pryor remains a consulting associate professor of medicine there.

“When I am asked to speak with physician groups, I try to distill lessons I’ve learned about healthcare from my own experience and relate them to what it really means to be a successful leader. I distill my messages into two key areas: One is understanding how to set goals that are appropriate, and the second is understanding how to work in the right way to achieve those goals,” explained Dr. Pryor, who serves on numerous boards and committees and has authored more than 275 publications.

“Being successful often means you need to develop not only ‘achievement’ goals, but also ‘influence’ goals. In order to be successful in achieving goals, you often times need to rely on the work of others and listen to the direction they can often provide. You need to think about how to influence people to get their support to take action on the goal and how to support them to be successful."

Dr. Pryor describes unique challenges that physicians assume when they move into leadership roles—particularly roles that engage them in jointly managing the business.

“I believe success is dependent upon knowledge, skills, and abilities,” he explained. “I think the coursework and the series of knowledge components that are part of an MBA program can be very helpful in creating that ‘knowledge’ piece. The skill work often comes from experience and understanding how to apply the knowledge in different settings. The ‘abilities’ piece is not only inherent but developed over years of experience and coming to the table with the right set of knowledge and skills— and also with the willingness to be able to look at oneself in an appropriate way."

“These are lessons I’ve learned along the way and, in many cases, learned the hard way,” Dr. Pryor said. “From mistakes I’ve made, I’ve tried to understand where gaps in my knowledge, skills, and abilities are and worked to improve myself in terms of my leadership skills and how I perform.”