Intelligence — Business dynamics are changing rapidly, and it requires someone who can recognize the trends and create and implement new strategies.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Goldberg.

Following an accomplished career in health care where he was the Executive Director (Hospital President) of New York’s second largest hospital, Michael created and founded Walkalongside LeaderTM. Michael utilized innovative methods and tools while managing his team of thousands every day including when it mattered most; during the COVID-19 crisis. Michael is passionate about the need for leaders to adapt their model to better connect with their employees and lead like life depends on it, because in some industries they actually do.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. Experiences in life differentiate us from each other and have the potential to help us live meaningfully and fulfilled. Over the past 18 months my family and I traveled across the world’s most dangerous waters on an expedition trip to Antarctica, I survived camping outside in -14 degrees weather on a frozen lake, run multiple marathons in several cities, and cycled in long distance events. I recently began training for and to participate in a 2-day white water rafting trip through class V+ rapids.

One of the things I’ve realized from these experiences is that the lesson’s I glean from each experience makes me a better family man, a more strategic business leader, and leader who knows how to deal with and overcome more adversity to thrive then a leader focused only on their work.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

I’ve been fortunate to have many people in my life who were key influencers that helped shaped the leader I am today. Several of them good ones, but I tribute most of the leader I have become to doing the opposite for the way I experienced and observed poor leaders.

Bob Shapiro was a legend in the healthcare finance world. A genius, financial strategist, who could easily find the types of mistakes I would have in my work as an entry level analyst. He was the type of leader who commanded excellence and made you want to provide excellent work for him, he was one of the greatest leaders I had the chance to learn from and call a mentor.

One day while sitting in my cubicle, we all heard that Bob was in the building, which was our indication to be on our best behavior. He had a practice of walking around through the 100 cubicles, ensuring we all knew he was in the building. To my surprise, he stopped at my cubicle and asked me to follow him to the conference room. Uncertain what I did wrong or why the CFO of a $3B company wanted to talk to an entry level analyst, I complied and followed him.

We sat across the large conference room table from one another, this was our first time speaking one on one. I was shaking, my breathing was rapid, leaving me out of breath, and when I spoke my voice shook. He asked me about my experience in the department, if I liked the work I was doing, if I had any questions or needed advice. I think he could tell that I was uncertain about his intentions.

He told me that one of the greatest joys he had throughout his career was working with and mentoring others. Just before this conversation took place, he had moved out of the finance office to another corporate location, away from his team. He asked me if it would be ok if we met monthly and if he could be my mentor. I sat there at 22-years-old being introduced to what I now call being a Walkalongside Leader. Out of over one thousand finance team members, he selected me to be one of his mentees, and I felt like I won the lottery.

We met monthly for about 15 years. During these meetings, we talked about everything from work to life and family. I have no doubt that those conversations helped shape who I am today and guided me through the growth that I experienced in my career.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

As I mentioned earlier, some of the development of who am I as leader was shaped by experiencing and observing poor leaders. Now, don’t get me wrong, some of them are what we’d perceive as “traditionally successful” because they generate results for their businesses\companies, but others not as much. After experiencing this leadership style which could only be described as abusive or hostile, as a very junior leader, I thought that’s how you treat people and I tried it….once.

I’m sad to say that I was influenced, and I tried to utilize this leadership technique when I was beginning my career. However, I’m proud to say that I quickly recognized that it was the wrong approach to leadership. It didn’t feel good, it wasn’t effective and it 100% goes against how I lived as a leader for the 20+ years that followed. It impacted me so much that I refused to allow any leader in my span of control behave that way or they would be replaced. This was demonstrated when I took over as the Hospital President and found through a survey of more than 4,000 team member that leaders were behaving this way. Within 18 months, 60% of the 300 leaders I oversaw had either left the company or found roles in different parts of the organization leading to a turnaround in employee engagement.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

Like many early careerists, my impression of being a leader was about being the one in charge, the one who gets to make decisions, the one who others must follow.

However, as an early leader my perspective changed rapidly. I quickly found that none of the previous viewpoints I had would be possible if I didn’t first recognize that I wasn’t there to lead my team, but to serve them. By supporting the team to achieve our goals we could accomplish more, faster.

Too often new leaders believe that leadership is about yes\no or black\white decisions. They feel the need to exert their power to display dominance. However, this is the opposite of what is effective. This observation was my beginning phases of developing the Walkalongside Leader style.

To be a leader now I believe it’s necessary to follow these simple STEPS; Shadow, Take Notice, Engage, Problem Solve, and Share Often.

Shadow — Experience your company’s culture and workflow as your team does.

Take Notice — Spend meaningful time in the field to see opportunities that are impossible to find from the corner office.

Engage — Relationship are formed through experiencing life together. Only once you’re trusted will your people feel comfortable sharing their true experience working for your organization.

Problem Solve — Leaders are uniquely positioned to solve problems that front-line workers cannot. Your role is to remove the barriers others face and improve your team’s experience.

Share Often — Recognize team members who are doing it well. Tell everyone about them. Spread the news and information that’s important to your team throughout the organization and beyond.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

Worrying about other people’s viewpoints of me. One of the things I’ve realized over the years, especially as a CEO responsible for over 12,000 team members providing care to millions of New Yorkers is that you can’t make everybody happy.

Inevitably, there will be decisions you make that are in the best interest of some stakeholder. Sometimes it’ll be your company, sometimes it’ll be the community, and sometimes it’ll be for your team. In each case there will be a representative group that doesn’t feel like their needs were met and that feeling might be cast onto you as the decision maker.

As a leader, it’s important to have a sound decision making process that puts the values of your company at the forefront. By staying true to those values and clear about your mission the decisions become reasonable and defendable having less to do with you as a person and more about your role in the company. Additionally, the more consistent you are, the more you’ll find that your team will provide your defense for you.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

Recognize, recognize, recognize. We’ve all heard that a raise or bonus is a short-lived form of appreciation that only goes so far with your team. Of course, at the same time, most team members will gladly accept it, however cultivating a culture of genuine, meaningful appreciation and recognition to the people who live out the values of your company is the most successful strategy to displaying long-term appreciation to your team.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

What got you here won’t get you (or your company) there. Over the past several years the job data in the United States suggests that almost 1 in 5 Americans have left or have changed jobs. As I leader, that tells me that there are options, and that people are in a large way showing companies what they are looking for in a company culture and the way leaders value their efforts. We just need to acknowledge this and listen.

It’s a great time to be a Walkalongside Leader™ or someone who is in touch with the changing dynamics for what their teams are looking for. By taking notice of the trends and speaking with their teams, the leaders of the future will problem solve for the gaps that exist in their companies to be the place of choice that talent in the marketplace will seek out to experience.

The leaders who embrace this change in management style will experience improved margins and outcomes as compared to their competitors.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

The single greatest pitfall that I’ve seen happen time and time again for new leaders is how they deal with transitioning from a peer or sometimes close friend to being responsible for decisions that impact the livelihood of said groups.

Being successful as a new leader, even with these dynamics is possible and potentially easier by addressing early and directly with the team that certain dynamics will feel uncomfortable to both of you. However, it doesn’t mean that you can or will avoid them. Having their support will through the transition (and beyond) can benefit you both. You’ll have to be careful not to have favorites on the team and rely on your values to keep you grounded on the core aspects of the decisions you’ll implement.

It’s important to note that too often I’ve seen the prior relationship fail once one member of the relationship is promoting before or above a previous friend or peer.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?

Integrity — Leaders must have credibility that comes with being honest, ethical, and building trust.

Caring — By demonstrating that the experience of their team and customers matter effective leaders will draw both into their company.

Intelligence — Business dynamics are changing rapidly, and it requires someone who can recognize the trends and create and implement new strategies.

Connected — Now more than ever, connecting with and listening to your team and customers is accessible to every leader. This should be embraced by leaders beyond relying on traditional means of communication.

Alive — If we’ve learned anything over the past several years, our time and the time of our team is precious, innovative leaders will ensure a culture that supports a healthy balance of life for their team members.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

Practice Winning Everyday™ — Just like any sports team preparing for the big game I’ve always approached life and leadership the same way. First, they practice. Somewhere along the way, we forget that we should consistently practice our craft and we just go to work. A friend of mine, Jesse Itlzer talks about the rule of 100 which says that if you practice anything just 5 minutes a day you’ll be better than 95% of the people in the world by the end of the year. Yet we don’t have this powerful viewpoint in the way we approach our careers once we’ve secured our jobs.

By having a mindset to practice winning everyday™ we continue to approach our jobs as if we’re a player on a team getting ready for the big game. For example, let’s take hockey for a moment. The following day after each game the team gathers and watches a replay of the game. They pick apart the plays the executed well and the ones that didn’t. Each player can see what they could do differently to achieve success next time. Then they go out on the ice and practice there refined plays, which may include very slight changes but make all the difference in the successful execution.

The other thing they do is watch the videos for the next team they are playing, and each player views the matchup they will contend with to develop strategies to beat their next opponent.

I believe we don’t do enough of this in the professional world, the way this has become part of my life and the way I teach it while being a Walkalongside Leader is this:

Each day on your way home from your job, in your car, on the bus, or maybe the train; reflect on your day. Think about the way you executed your job, they tasks you performed, how you communicated with your boss or team members. Then think about one thing you could do differently tomorrow or on your next shift. When that day comes, practice it. On the following day after you practiced it, play back your own highlight real and reflect on that change. How did it go? Are you satisfied with the outcome. If no, practice it again, if yes, great! Now it’s time to move onto the next one.

By having a constant personal goal to improve each day, and a way to Practice Winning Everyday™, when the moment comes for you to be in your equivalent of the “big game”, you’ll be prepared and will undoubtable win over the person who just went through life without having a personal culture of improvement.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

People can feel valued, appreciated, and recognized while being led by an effective leader. Too many leaders don’t prioritize this, or they delegate it, or they are afraid to show some amount of vulnerability to their team. I’d love my legacy to be the example of this style of leadership setting the standard for the expectations by which all employees should hold their leaders accountable.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

I’d love to connect and discuss this and more with you. I can be found on social media (LinkedIn, instagram & tiktok @michaelhgoldberg). My website is and you can email me at [email protected]

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!