UnitedHealthcare CEO of MN, Dakotas on developing future leaders

Brett Edelson leads with passion

The issues facing the world of health care require passionate leaders who are ready to put in the hard work to help find solutions. It’s this driving force that motivates Brett Edelson, UnitedHealthcare CEO of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, in his daily work and as he helps shape the next generation of health care leaders.

At a recent panel in Bloomington, MN, titled “Lessons from the Corner Office: How to Land that Executive Promotion,” Brett had the opportunity to speak in front of a group of up-and-coming health care professionals, looking to take that next step in their career. His message that day was simple: Find your passion, dedicate yourself to it, surround yourself with a supportive team, intently listen to them and respond to their feedback.

“We face such big problems in health care, and not one person can do it alone,” he said, in a later interview. “There’s the famous saying, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go with a team.’ As leaders, we need to create the right sense of teamwork, motivate those teams, support those teams and allow everyone to be able to play to their strengths.”

Brett recently sat down to answer a few questions about what leadership means to him and the career advice he gives to those ready to advance.

Why is it important to you to help guide the next generation of leaders?

I've benefited so much in my career from mentors, formal and informal, that have done a tremendous job in helping me learn from them, both as a role model and through actionable and direct feedback. I am from the belief that for those who are given a lot, they should give back even more in return. One way I have given back is to share some of my own experiences – both mistakes and successes. It really is a privilege to be able to share with others who are dedicated to improving their own leadership.

What advice would you give to those looking to advance their career?

One of the pieces of advice that I often provide those who are early in their career is that hard work pays off. The people who are open to working hard, to solving tough problems, to being flexible, to recognizing that health care is constantly changing — those are the ones that will succeed. Sometimes it involves pushing yourself and pushing others, but I think for those who really embrace that it can make a significant impact.

You talked a little bit about some of the failures that ultimately made you stronger. How do you think that helped you get to where you are today?

Failures are some of the best lessons in life. As difficult as they can be at the time, when you get on the other side you often realize how much stronger you are. So I always encourage anybody to, first of all, acknowledge you will fail at some point. But more importantly, think about it as a learning and growth opportunity. As I look back on my career, I always feel like I was supported and part of that support allowed me to take enough risk to fail. If you never fail, it probably means you're not taking enough chances, but also make sure you're surrounding yourself with folks that will be there to help build you back up and to make sure that you can take on the next challenge.

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