Unconventional Leadership

A leadership paradigm that will motivate, inspire, and drive new thinking in today’s disruptive business environment.

What does it take to lead the successful turnaround of four consecutive organizations? What does it take to run a $5 billion business in Detroit as the city struggles to emerge from municipal bankruptcy and its worst ongoing crisis ever? What does it take to be a female CEO who has come up against discrimination and personal attack?

It takes Unconventional Leadership, a style of leadership based on confronting reality and leading headlong through adversity. In this inspiring story, Nancy Schlichting, the CEO of Henry Ford Health System, reveals her unique strategies that drive success: maintaining a focus on people, creating a culture of innovation and reinvention, and embracing diversity as a key strategy for growth.

The book describes a leadership paradigm that will motivate, inspire, and drive new thinking in today’s disruptive business environment where traditional modes of managing are no longer working. In Unconventional Leadership, Schlichting weaves together three themes that explain how she has become one of the most powerful individuals in healthcare today: (1) deftly conquering the immense challenges within the healthcare industry itself—consolidation, new models of delivery and financing, increasing government regulation and oversight, changing customer expectations, and pressures on cost and quality (2) the exciting and panoramic backdrop of Henry Ford and Detroit—Ford’s legacy of invention and innovation combined with ongoing attempts to restore and renew a city in deep decline; and (3) forging a career path and excelling as a female CEO in a world typically dominated by men.

An abiding fan of the underdog, Schlichting reveals, above all else, the sheer grit and determination required to lead through adversity and create a successful legacy of leadership.

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What People Are Saying About the Book

“Our Plan to Win at McDonald’s was all about making the business better, not just bigger. Nancy Schlichting has done the same with amazing results throughout her impressive career. This book deserves wide readership for its inspirational look at how to remaster your leadership practices with an eye to the quality of the company, instead of the bottom line.”

– Jim Skinner, Former CEO, McDonald’s

“In the early 20th century Henry Ford took over a struggling hospital in Detroit and turned it into a world-class medical center. In the early 21st century Nancy Schlichting repeated the process at the same hospital, using the same innovative and unconventional leadership methods as my great-grandfather. Unconventional Leadership: What Henry Ford and Detroit Taught Me about Reinvention and Diversity tells the story of how Nancy turned around the Henry Ford Hospital and Health System. Under her leadership, in the middle of a global recession and the first bankruptcy of a major U.S. city, the hospital flourished and earned a worldwide reputation for excellence that culminated in the coveted Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award. Leaders and would-be leaders would do well to read this book and apply its lessons.”

– Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company

“Sometimes, leading a team to victory isn’t about taking the traditional path. Instead, it can take imagination, risk, and the ability to turn obstacles into opportunities. Nancy Schlichting has done this both personally and professionally. I strongly recommend this book to any leader looking to take their team to the next level.”

– Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, Head Coach of Men’s Basketball at Duke University

“In the 21st century, a different type of leadership is required to achieve change that is truly transformational. Leaders need to be flexible, innovative and willing to challenge the status quo to make meaningful progress on increasing the accessibility and affordability of health care. In her book about unconventional leadership, Nancy tells the story of her journey, and outlines what we need to do to achieve transformative change, on a personal and professional level.”

– Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente

“Nancy Schlichting is an authentic, unconventional and extremely successful leader. Her willingness to take smart risks and invest in people consistently transformed healthcare systems. Moreover, her grit and candor are inspiring. A must read for anyone interested in leadership.”

– Risa Lavizzo – Mourey, President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

“The defining challenge for leaders today is to reimagine what’s possible in their fields – to do what other organizations can’t or won’t do, and thus get to the future first. That’s what Nancy Schlichting has done throughout her career, and with this insatiably readable and relentlessly useful book, she shows you how to do it too. Nancy is one of the most inspiring change agents I’ve ever met, an unconventional leader whose uncommon sense can teach all of us about where leadership itself is going.”

– William C. Taylor, Cofounder and Founding Editor, Fast Company, Author, Practically Radical

“The Ford Foundation proudly carries on a tradition of service and leadership that Henry Ford began almost 80 years ago. I have rarely seen that tradition better represented or articulated than in Unconventional Leadership. Schlichting demonstrates that leadership practices can be thoughtful, positive, and courageous without sacrificing effectiveness. This book is a must-read for any leader interested in managing and motivating people for high performance and impact!”

– Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

“Nancy’s blend of compassion, bravery, and practicality will give all leaders, current and aspiring, the confidence to find and pursue their own form of Unconventional Leadership. Her strategies will help you to remain resilient in the face of adversity, to the benefit of both yourself and your company.”

– Ginger Graham, President and CEO, Two Trees Consulting