• Becoming a Fully Respectful Leader: The Recipe for Gracious Leadership

    20 April 2018

    A Book Review from a Vanderbilt University Medical Center Administrative Fellow Heather Hubbs

    “The positive ripple effect of your gracious leadership carries great potential for many generations to come.” – Janet Smith Meeks

    What is your favorite recipe? Maybe it’s a tried and true recipe that has been passed down for generations within your family or maybe it’s a newly found creation from Pinterest. Regardless of the dish, I always find a recipe helpful and I tend to gravitate towards ones that incorporate basic, yet wholesome, ingredients that are readily available.

    In the high-stakes, ever-changing, and multidimensional healthcare industry we work in, wouldn’t it be nice if leadership had a recipe? What if the path to becoming the most effective, results-driven, and impactful leader was a formula of skill ingredients that were readily available for us to tap into? How would we lead differently with this knowledge? Fortunately, Janet Smith Meeks has prescribed just the recipe to allow leaders from every industry to attain peak performance while leading in a different, yet better, way. The recipe, however, is not for the faint of heart and allows absolutely no short cuts to be made.

    Before revealing the key ingredients, Janet discusses the Head-Heart Connection. Simply put, decisions should be made utilizing both data and hard facts coupled with the broader impact on stakeholders. Contrary to popular belief, leaders can, and should, use both their head and their heart to make decisions; this is a critical factor in becoming an enlightened decision-maker who minimizes adverse results. “When you lead with your head and your heart, you consistently act in the best interest of your key stakeholders and are purposeful in helping employees understand they are doing meaningful work.” This further creates a win-win situation because, “…employees need to experience a connection between what they are motivated to do through their job descriptions and what they are inspired to do from within their hearts.”

    After understanding the Head-Heart Connection, it’s now time for the key ingredients, which include the following thirteen strategic components: respect, valuing relationships, listening with purpose and responding with care, seeing problems as opportunities, asking the right questions, matching passion with purpose, developing people, requiring accountability, courage, seeking feedback, providing feedback, compassion, and gratefulness. The ingredients may appear ‘soft’ or too simple, however, they are proven business essentials.

    Take recognition, for instance. A 10 year study of 200,000 managers and employees was conducted and disclosed in The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. “According to the data, companies in the highest quartile of recognition of excellence report an operating margin of 6.6 percent, while those in the lowest quartile report 1 percent.” As Janet says, “…employee engagement has been proven time and time again to be a driving force in optimizing and sustaining organizational performance.” Greater results come as common decency and respect are restored back into the workplace and gracious leaders set the stage for the opportune time to achieve “the right results in the right manner”.

    As you can see, leadership and recipes are a lot alike. To be successful, all key ingredients must be added. However, both can involve wrong decisions that enable a situation to go awry quickly. Maybe you added baking powder instead of baking soda or maybe you were quick to criticize and slow to listen.

    Regardless of the situation, becoming a fully respectful and gracious leader, is a journey and not simply an end result. We as leaders must demonstrate patience and persistence in our quest to effectively lead ours teams and organizations. Burnt dishes are inevitable and failures will happen. However, with practice and perseverance, we can instill respect and positivity in our day to day routine and ultimately create thriving teams and organizations that are bursting at the seams with gracious leaders.

    In case I have not made you hungry enough with all of the recipe talk, take a look at one of my personal favorite dessert recipes from Ellie Krieger on the Cooking Channel. It’s a crowd-pleasing, healthier recipe that is sure to impress.

    Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta Cream

    Course Dessert
    Prep Time 15 minutes
    Cook Time 2 minutes
    Inactive Time 2 hours
    Total Time 2 hours 17 minutes
    Servings 4
    Calories 180 kcal
    Author Ellie Krieger


    • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
    • 2 tbsp honey
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 16 oz strawberries hulled and quartered
    • 2 tbsp fresh basil leaves cut into ribbons


    1. Put the ricotta cheese, honey and vanilla extract into the small bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

    2. In a small saucepan combine the vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool completely.

    3. In a medium bowl, toss the berries with the basil and the balsamic syrup.

    4. Divide the cream among 4 cocktail glasses, top with the berry mixture and serve.

  • Book Review from The Studer Group

    1 March 2018

    Gracious Leadership is a practical book written by an experienced healthcare executive who has led organizational change. The book is “heavy” in content but a quick read. It would be an excellent preassignment for an executive or leadership retreat or a Leadership Development Institute. The Conversation Starters at the end of each chapter will help the reader ascertain how best to apply the learning. I found the emphasis on accountability and ownership were much more practical and focused than many publications I’ve read on servant leadership.” Read the full review…

    Lynne Cunningham, Studer Group

  • Book Review from Leading Fully Present Consulting

    5 January 2018

    “Look up the word ‘gracious’ and you will find synonyms such as courteous, civil, merciful, compassionate and kind. While those words might not be the first that come to mind when we think of our leaders today, don’t they describe what we all really want in a leader? In her new book, Gracious Leadership, Janet Smith Meeks helps readers understand thirteen key ingredients necessary to lead graciously and to have a positive and lifelong impact on their people and organizations.”

    “First, readers get to know the author as Janet not only shares the routine facts of her upbringing, education and early career but also a very personal and powerful story that illustrates the impact of another leader’s gracious leadership on her life. This event helped Janet form her overall philosophy of the head-heart connection in leader behaviors. Employing terrific story-telling skills to illustrate her leadership principles, readers are all in by chapter four, when the thirteen ingredients instruction begins in earnest.”

    “What better way for leaders to start the new year than by investing in their own development? Reading and reflecting on the thirteen key ingredients of gracious leadership will help you lead your team more effectively and be a positive impact on your organization as a whole. Read and study Gracious Leadership and you will ‘lead like you’ve never led before!'”

    Eleanor E. Biddulph, Leading Fully Present Consulting

  • Endorsement from C. Robert Kidder

    1 January 2018

    “Janet Meeks tells a personal, clearly articulated story of learning and practicing ‘Gracious Leadership’ and its central importance to mission success.  Hers is a timeless, head and heart journey that reveals a path for all of us.”

    C. Robert Kidder, director, Merck & Co.; former board chairman, Chrysler; former lead director, Morgan Stanley; former CEO, Duracell; former CEO, Borden Inc.

  • Endorsement from Kerrii B. Anderson

    1 January 2018

    Gracious Leadership, by Janet Smith Meeks, shares the powerful, personal examples of how passionate, brave, courageous and communicative leaders deliver tremendous value to all their constituencies and are truly the recipe for organizational and personal success!”

    Kerrii B. Anderson, former president & CEO, Wendy’s International; corporate director, Abercrombie & Fitch, Labcorp, and Worthington Industries; chairman, Elon University

  • Endorsement from Mike Kaufmann

    1 January 2018

    “Continuous learning is not always about learning something new, but reminding yourself of the important things you may have forgotten. Seasoned leaders who read Gracious Leadership and utilize the Conversation Starters will help refresh and refine their own leadership competencies and create a great learning experience for their teams.

    When I talk with folks about what I have learned over the years, I always tell them they should handle disappointments with grace as it will be remembered and pay dividends in the future. Janet’s book reminds me there are many other opportunities where grace can be applied to everyone’s advantage. 

    Janet’s comments that great leaders recognize they don’t have all the answers are spot on. They are not afraid to ask the people who do have the answers the right questions, no matter what level these folks may be. And when they ask, Gracious Leaders listen like no one else is in the room.”

    Mike Kaufmann, CEO Cardinal Health, a Fortune 100 company

  • Endorsement from John Fleming

    1 January 2018

    “Gracious Leadership is more than a book, it is a case study of one individual—the author, who describes her experiences from childhood and family values to the impact family values had on a career in both the financial and health care industries. A successful and remarkable CEO, the author emphasizes, that the basic principles of Gracious Leadership are transferrable regardless of corporate, organizational or even government focus. Perhaps, and most importantly, the author provides insights as to why some leaders miss the mark.

    Janet Meeks has blessed us with a documentary, a guideline, a new label and introduction of a completely new description of the attributes of Gracious Leadership. Regardless of position, title or responsibility, or even type of organization, I find this work to be more than insightful.

    Early in my reading, I knew I had to complete this work when I noted the following words from the author: ‘I believe teams of all types within all industries and organizations can reap great rewards from displaying gracious and respectful behaviors as they seek to optimize their collective performance. This holds true at home, on the basketball court, in the C-Suite, or in the Boardroom.’ The preceding words clearly established that Gracious Leadership is about a focus on people, the people within the organization who ultimately make the organization what it is or becomes.

    I wish I had this work many years ago. Janet Meeks has given us a glimpse at her life journey and the 13 attributes of Gracious Leadership in a learning and teachable format. This work goes beyond the definitions and principles of leadership described in Jim Collins’ legendary work Good to Great first released in 2001. This work is a must read for all who really believe that we, as individuals and organizations, succeed via the quality and excellence in how we serve and recognize others for the contributions they make!”

    John Fleming, Author, Consultant and Speaker; former Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of Direct Selling News; former senior executive of Avon Products, Inc.

  • Endorsement from Dwight Smith

    1 January 2018

    “Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before provides invaluable insights into leadership—real and true leadership. The Key Ingredients shared by Janet are precisely those required for GREAT leadership. Whether you are just beginning your journey to become a world class leader or you have many years in your role as a leader, Janet’s insights are inspiring and remind us all what is important in developing ourselves to our fullest potential.

    I have been blessed to know Janet for many years. She is impressive beyond words, brilliant, compassionate and someone who truly cares for others. Janet’s spirit and affirmation of her undying FAITH are both humble and bold. She continues to be an amazing role model to many. I am honored to be one of many people who has benefitted from her wisdom. Enjoy Gracious Leadership. A world full of gracious leaders—Janet’s aspiration—would make our organizations and communities a wonderful place. Let’s all lead like we never have led before—starting today.”

    Dwight Smith, Servant Leader, chairman & CEO, Sophisticated Systems, Inc.; founder, My Special Word

  • Endorsement from Barbara J. Smoot

    1 January 2018

    “In corporate America’s drive for growth and profit, many organizations have created a workforce of the ‘walking wounded.’ Employees within these companies leave their souls at the front door and steel themselves against daily insults, indifference and condescending behavior from executives and managers entrusted to lead them. There simply is a better way. Employees thirst for compassionate leadership that honors rather than strips them of their dignity—the kind of leadership that Janet Meeks masterfully details in Gracious Leadership. In this book Janet shares leadership strategies that can deliver exceptional results by transforming companies with toxic cultures into high performing organizations driven by engaged employees who are walking tall!”

    Barbara J. Smoot, CEO, WELD (Women for Economic and Leadership Development); commissioner, Columbus Women’s Commission; corporate director, National Church Residences; former vice president, Nationwide Financial

  • Endorsement from Peter J. Giammalvo, PhD

    1 January 2018

    “Readers may be easily overwhelmed by the hundreds of leadership books with catchy titles lining the shelves of bookstores these days. With the publication of Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before, Janet Meeks has made a unique contribution to the collection. Her description of the key ingredients of Gracious Leadership draws not only from the research literature but from the personal stories (hers and others) of successful leaders. Her treatment is ‘elegant in its simplicity.’ Although it may seem simplistic to say that effective leaders demonstrate both ‘head and heart’ competencies, Janet provides the reader with true stories of how this dynamic duo looks in action!

    Gracious Leadership is an easy read of complex issues. One cannot help but become personally engaged in each short, crisp chapter. I recommend that this book be required reading for graduate students in healthcare administration, MBA students focusing on healthcare, mid-career healthcare professionals who are transitioning into leadership roles from clinical and/or business roles, and those ‘high potentials’ who have been identified in their organizations as having growth opportunities in their organizations. Upon reflection, I think that leaders at every career stage will take a step forward by not only reading the book but applying the Conversation Starters that the author includes after each chapter.”

    Peter J. Giammalvo, PhD, leadership & talent management consultant; retired healthcare executive-in-residence and visiting professor, College of Health Sciences & Professions, Ohio University; former Chief Learning Officer, Vanderbilt University Medical Center