Essay: Bernard J. Tyson

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  • Subject area(s): Business essays
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  • Published on: December 27, 2019
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  • Bernard J. Tyson
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Bernard J. Tyson is the president and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, the largest U.S. not-for-profit health plan and healthcare provider. However, Tyson began as an administrative medical analyst. In the late 80s, Tyson transitioned to an assistant administrative role in The Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. From thereafter, he continually advanced through the ranks of Kaiser, eventually becoming its CEO in 2012. Kaiser Permanente directly provides care for more than ten million people in the U.S., focusing on supplying affordable healthcare and prevention through “evidence-based medicine and industry-leading technology” (1). As its CEO and president, Tyson, along with other executives, oversees all of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plans’ and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals’ operations, being held responsible for leading/managing approximately 200,000+ employees in one of the most influential healthcare organizations of the 20th/21st century.


Tyson received both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration from Golden Gate University while concentrating his efforts on the healthcare industry. He also earned an advanced leadership certificate from Harvard University. Alongside Kaiser, Tyson also serves as vice chair for the Executive Leadership Council, which is a leadership network and advocacy organization. He also serves on the organization’s board of directors. Through this, Tyson has become increasingly recognized for both his work outside of and within healthcare.

For past three decades, Tyson has served as a respected leader in all in all facets of Kaiser. His responsibilities ranged from running individual hospitals, branding/leading Kaiser’s “Thrive” campaign, etc. Through the Thrive campaign, Tyson altered the entire healthcare landscape by technological innovation of digital health and vastly improving the “accessibility of high-quality care in age of digital health” (Kaiser Permanente). In 2010, almost a decade after starting the new Thrive Campaign, Tyson was named one of the most influential people in healthcare by Modern Healthcare magazine (1).

Leadership style and philosophy:

Tyson and Kaiser Permanente continue to transform modern-day healthcare both locally, nationally, and internationally. Kaiser’s absolute success in this is driven by the philosophical belief that healthcare should be safe, affordable, and accessible to all, all the while the industry as a whole is being held responsible for its performance, particularly in terms of service, quality, and affordability (1).

One of the fundamental drivers of Tyson’s esteem/success is his display of inclusive leadership. Throughout his tenure, Tyson has continuously demonstrated his ability to consciously take all stakeholders, both Kaiser’s employees and communities throughout the U.S., into consideration, placing an emphasis on cultural competency and and fostering an inclusive workplace. For example, Tyson serves as an executive sponsor for multiple Kaiser initiatives that focus on eradicating disparities in healthcare based on race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. Specifically, CEO of The American Heart Association, Nancy Brown, states that Tyson has increased Kaiser’s efforts in reducing disparities in blood-pressure levels and other heart-related issues and using electronic records to track/measure the extent of its success (Colliver).

Furthermore, Tyson has proven to cultivate relationships and develop leadership within Kaiser, dedicating much of his time to mentoring staff members, promoting employees into leadership roles, and assembling some of the most effective leadership teams in healthcare. In 2015, Tyson was nominated as one of the “Visionaries of the Year” for being recognized for his “down-to-earth” leadership style and passion for helping others” (Genatossio). Not only is this exemplified through the not-for-profit nature of the organization, but through increased efforts to share Kaiser’s knowledge, expertise, and overall healthcare model, collaborating with outside organizations in order to improve healthcare in its entirety. In this, Tyson demonstrates multiple layers of transparency, compassion, and empathy. Arguably, the best leaders in healthcare let their values guide their actions, and Bernard Tyson is no exception to this.

Leadership impact:

Tyson’s influence has been felt both nationally and internationally. Among many developed countries, the United States’ healthcare system has been rated the lowest. Serving as a Co-Chair for the World Economic Forum Global Health Initiative, Tyson has been able to absorb numerous perspectives on health and healthcare. From these experiences and insights, Tyson believes Kaiser Permanente’s demonstrated ability to deliver high-quality care through a holistic approach (more focus on prevention, early detection, etc…) will serve as the model for advancing healthcare in America.

As a leader, Tyson shares that a great leader engages the “entire person” and the nuances that come along with that. Connected with the concept of inclusivity in Kaiser, Tyson believes that understanding differences in personalities and embracing the complexity of people yields the most effective results. Another way Tyson separates his personal leadership from others is by focusing on problems by including employees in reaching solutions as a joint effort, rather than posing a problem/solution to portray himself as superior. As previously states, Tyson encourages complete transparency within the workplace, saying employees are free to express concerns/questions/problems to him as long as they’re willing to understand he may disagree or have a different point of view. This effectively creates an environment where employees and management have an open dialogue, resolve/collaborate on issues, and more efficiently come to conclusions that make Kaiser thrive.

Situational factors:

Among serving Kaiser Permanente for three decades, more recently, Tyson has also become an advocate for improving race relations within the United States. As a minority, Tyson has clearly expressed adversity he’s faced living in America, even as the CEO of a major corporation. In 2014, Tyson posted an essay sharing his views on these issues as well as giving personal insight into his experiences as an African American. This grants a unique perspective on Tyson’s ability to not only overcome these extreme adversities, but become an advocate/catalyst for change to the very same hardships he’s faced as a minority. Because of this, Tyson has undertaken yet another degree of leadership, becoming one of the most admirable leaders in social activism, healthcare, and the business world.

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