Behind the career: David D. Bennett

July 7, 2013

Position: Executive vice president and chief operating officer of the GetWellNetwork, a Bethesda company that provides technology for health care providers.

David D. Bennett’s mother was a registered nurse and his grandfather a physician, so he has long been interested in health care. Bennett went to medical school and eventually became interested in using technology to engage patients. That led him to GetWellNetwork, where he was hired to lead operations.

You are very adamant about “leading from the bottom up.” How do you do that?

What happens sometimes at the C-level is that we lose sight of what’s happening in the organization, and we depend upon our trusted management to communicate to us. There’s nothing more valuable than stepping out of that office and getting in the trenches with your people. I think that is probably one of the most fundamental things that is overlooked. It has to be consistent. It can’t be a one-time thing. Talk to everyone, even the guy in the mail room or the secretary at the front desk. A lot of the issues and problems in a company are widely known by the people who work there. And they have good ideas to fix them.

How do to create that kind of culture?

I like to know what’s going on. I had an employee going through a horrible divorce situation. If I didn’t know [this person] and [the person] didn’t open up to me, I might’ve wondered what was going on with this individual. But I go down and listen to people. You don’t have to act upon everything, but just listen.

What do you think might hinder leaders from doing that?

It’s part of the hierarchy. Some people believe as they move in the organization, there are other underlings [they] can trust. You can. But I believe you lead from the bottom up. I can say, my father had tens of thousands of employees, but he was still effective in maintaining that culture. Your time is limited, but you have to set aside some time in doing that.

How have you grown most as a leader?

I’ve learned not to be a micromanager. You can surround yourself with people who are entirely different politically and culturally, but if the vision is the same, you can do phenomenal things. You can be a leader and delegate those things to bright and trusted people.

What business books are you reading?

I just finished reading one by Randy Dobbs called “Transformational Leadership.”

— Interview with Vanessa Small

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