I read a story this morning in disbelief. While I am not surprised that Dr. Cosgrove declined the opportunity to spend his later years being beat up at VA, I am surprised that outside opinions about why he would decline are elementary.

Cleveland Clinic’s Toby Cosgrove says no to VA post, will remain at Clinic:

“Yet culturally, the VA and Cleveland Clinic are worlds apart. Cosgrove can give an order at the Clinic and know it will be obeyed. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, he would have faced a sprawling enterprise, employees with union and other job protections, and a flow of decision-making that can make the VA seem like a Rambler to the Clinic’s Ferrari.”

No leader ever gives an order “knowing” it will be obeyed. Orders are followed because staff has been trained to do so, and the leader inspects to ensure it is completed. In one sentence, the author paints VA as a broken down clunker sitting next to a shiny new sports car. Let’s look at that. How many people does a Ferrari seat? How expensive are the parts, the maintenance and the driver experience to drive one to full capacity? Has VA been equipped with a Ferrari? Or is it even suitable to care for the millions it is designed to care for?

Let’s look at another possible decision factor: The annual rate of pay for a Level I political appointee is $199,700. The VA position would mean a significant cut to his compensation of $3.1 million (source).

My point here is the media continues to paint a picture of a broken system that no one in their right mind would take charge of. That is simply not so. Dr. Cosgrove served his country in the military and continues to do so by being a world class leader in setting the example for others, including VA to emulate. VA is not a Rambler, and any job protections and employee unions that exist have been authorized by law and are deemed fair. They are also there to protect the employer as well as the employee. A sub-standard employee is rarely protected by either law or union.


A “Leader” understands this and is able to motivate, train, counsel and discipline within the law and the union rules. Most of this is merely documenting the training and the counseling. I have witnessed many low performing employees do a 180 to excellence, with nothing more than the proper leadership, demonstrated in counseling, training and discipline.

There are no untouchables with good leadership. Like all organizations VA has some poor leaders—and we have some great ones. We can all improve and grow by “inspecting what we are expecting”…and documenting it.

If you are a great leader or want to be, then come to VA and together we can make a difference. Visit VAcareers.va.gov today.

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Published on Jun. 9, 2014

Estimated reading time is 2.4 min.

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