Leader Profile #2: Leon Clark
Name: Leon Clark
Title: Department Chair — Research Administration
Company: Mayo Clinic
Industry: Health Care
For my second informational interview, I chose Leon Clark, Department Chair of Research Administration at Mayo Clinic. Leon began his career in accounting and has since transitioned to roles in financial analysis, operations, and administration. A self-described storyteller, his experience is beneficial in finding transferable skills necessary for success in leadership.
Questions about the Contact
Leon holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a Master’s in business administration, both from DePaul University in Chicago, IL. His first job out of college was as an accountant for a large accounting firm. He knew almost immediately that this was not the job for him. He transitioned to financial analysis but still wasn’t satisfied. He liked problem solving and finding inefficiencies in process design. This led him to a career in operations, culminating thus far as the Department Chair of Research Administration at Mayo Clinic.
Leon has the core mission of Mayo Clinic, connecting with patients, as his guiding principle. When faced with a challenge, he relates it to his own self and tries to find a solution that would appeal to him as a patient or family member. He enjoys recognizing challenges and workings toward a solution.
Questions about Communicating for Leadership
In discussing his relationship with other department chairs, Leon believes they all want to do what’s the very best for the patient. They communicate by using each other as a sounding board sharing new ideas. The solutions should always be as easy on the patient as possible.
When asked about conflict management, Leon welcomes a healthy level of debate, but also that there is an appropriate time for debate. Once a decision has been made, everyone should “roll in the same direction” or the solution is likely to fail. Leon encourages open dialogue that engages everyone, not just a few dominant players, which ensures more buy-in from the team.
Questions Seeking Advice
Leon recommends being known as someone who solves problems, someone who can identify a challenge and work to find a solution. In doing so, he also advises to be conscious of the downstream effects. How will your decision affect others within or outside the organization?
Leon also recommends developing the core skills that are transferable from your current position to where you want to go in your career. He gives the analogy of a baseball pitcher to illustrate this point. A pitcher who is successful as a starter in college wants to continue as a starter in the major leagues, but his skills are sufficient yet. He must first master the core fundamentals as a relief pitcher before he can assume a starting role. The same applies to your career. You must first master the fundamentals, e.g. communication, before you can advance.
Once you master the fundamentals, you must educate yourself of the requirements of the job for which you aspire. Leon uses his own story as an example. Unsatisfied in his finance role, Leon desired a job in operations in one of Mayo’s patient care divisions. However, he lacked the necessary skills to make a direct transition. While still fulfilling the requirements of his job at the time, Leon volunteered in a department that aligned with his career goals. This afforded two benefits. First, Leon gained the experience and knowledge necessary for a career move. Second, he introduced himself to his potential hirers. They had first-hand knowledge of his abilities and desires.
The common theme throughout the interview was continuous learning. Leon’s career epitomizes this mentality. Dissatisfied in accounting and financial analysis, Leon learned operations management. Desiring a role that directly impacted patient care, Leon volunteered in those divisions within Mayo Clinic. Leon considers himself a problem-solver and welcomes new challenges and has a passion for delivering only the best to his team and is conscious of the effect that has on patients “downstream”. Continuously learning is fantastic and essential advice for anyone, in any stage of their career.