Leadership & Character

Juxtaposing Two Renowned Leaders of Health

When considering leadership in health care, I think first of how that leadership has affected health care in particular. Being a leader in health care does not guarantee great impact; however, an effective leader can have great impact over a large scope. This is how I framed my search to find two leaders in health care to highlight in this paper.

The first leader of health care that I will discuss is Clara Barton. According to Chambers (2002), Barton, independent to a fault, has been described as having a persuasive power about her. A fairly timid girl, Barton had self-image problems growing up that were at times debilitating; however, it seemed that as long as her interest was in helping others Barton performed selflessly, with heroism and bravado usually reserved for men during the time. Barton, a school teacher, found herself in the middle of the Civil War caring and tending to the soldiers on the battlefield. Dubbed the angel of the battlefield, Barton would not cease in caring for the soldiers even under enemy fire.

Barton, according to Chambers (2002) was not a very effective manager, but she could convince anyone to do anything that she needed to get done, it was said. Barton presents with a leadership style that is transformational (Robbins & Judge, 2010). She sees a need and immediately works to fill the void, inspiring others to do the same. Barton was ultimately responsible for founding the American Red Cross, a neutral organization that today responds to over 67, 000 disasters per year providing medical supplies, food, and housing in order to promote health equity even during wartime. Barton was a socialized charismatic leader, and her accomplishments are truly inspirational (Robbins & Judge, 2010).

The second leader of health care, more so in death than in life, that I chose to discuss is Johns Hopkins. Most people are familiar with Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University, but it might be surprising to know that these namesakes were only made possible by the posthumous gift of $7-million from Hopkins’s estate (Herringshaw, 1901; “Johns Hopkins,” 1891). Hopkins started life from an affluent family, but a choice to free the family’s slaves forced Hopkins out of his formal education to help on the family tobacco farm. Since leaving the family farm, it seemed, by all accounts, that Hopkins had an innate ability for business (“Johns Hopkins,” 1891). Hopkins became very successful in business early in his lifetime, and he always tried to return his good fortune to the community. This innate ability for business, along with his unwavering business ethics, would seem to make Hopkins a likable and well-respected leader, possibly invoking a sense that he was born with these traits (Borgatta, Bales, & Couch, 1954; Cawthon, 1996; Robbins & Judge, 2010). It was in the spirit of community leader that Hopkins fulfilled his final philanthropy by funding an orphanage, a university, colleges, and a hospital that to this day is world-renowned. Johns Hopkins was an authentic leader (Robbins & Judge, 2010).

Whether a leader is naturally born with certain traits or learns behaviors from their environment, what matters most is that they be prepared to lead when the time comes. Without the onus of personal responsibility, no true leaders can exist.


Borgatta, E. F., Bales, R. F., & Couch, A. S. (1954). Some findings relevent to the great man theory of leadership. American Sociological Review, 19(6), 755-759. doi:10.2307/2087923

Cawthon, D. L. (1996). Leadership: the great man theory revisited. Business Horizons, 39(3), 1-4. doi:10.1016/S0007-6813(96)90001-4

Chambers, L. (2002). Fearless under fire. Biography, 6(4), 64-67, 96-97.

Herringshaw, T. W. (Ed.). (1901). Johns Hopkins. Herringshaw’s encyclopedia of American biography of the nineteenth century. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/

Johns Hopkins. (1891). The national cyclopaedia of American biography (Vol. 5). Retrieved from http://books.google.com/

Robbins, S. P. & Judge, T. A. (2010). Leadership. Essentials of Organizational Behavior (pp. 159-180). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.