In each “On Leadership” column, Allen Lima Leadership Executive Director Matt Childers talks with a regional business leader. This week, he profiles Ronda Lehman, president of Mercy Health-St. Rita’s. Ronda is a proud member of the Allen Lima Leadership Class of 2013.
Matt: Before we get into the leadership portion of this interview, let me ask you how you and your team at Mercy been doing during this health crisis.
Ronda: It’s been a journey. In some ways it feels like it has been a very short period of time, and other days it feels like years. It’s been an enlightening time to understand the impact of healthcare and community health and getting to see the many different agencies and partners come together through this and that a lot of us maybe didn’t fully appreciate how those health sectors have always intersected. The health department, the skilled nursing facilities, even hospitals that compete with each other all needed to get around the community health crisis and see it through.
Matt: Did Mercy-St. Rita’s get the surge of coronavirus cases that were expected?
Ronda: What we thought was going to be a Tsunami of cases, a big surge, really has turned out to be a constant little bit of floodwaters. We understand now that some of the experiences that other major cities had — this immense overwhelming impact on their health systems, which we were fully prepared and still are fully prepared to handle — appears the hurricane has turned a bit, and we are incredibly grateful for that. I would echo the words of our leaders in our state, that it is because of what we did that has allowed us to be in the situation we are in now.
Matt: Tell our audience about your early years.
Ronda: I grew up in eastern Allen County on a farm, I still live on a farm and went to Allen East High School. I have three older sisters. I am the youngest of four girls. My poor father (laughter). I have always enjoyed this community. I grew up pretty humble, and I am glad to be from here.
Matt: Early mentors in your life?
Ronda: Definitely my parents (Mr. and Mrs. Ron Spencer). From a work ethic standpoint and just being generally supportive of me and my sisters, we really got a lot of encouragement to reach for the stars and do to whatever it was that we had in mind. Probably that went a little unappreciated until I became a bit older and realized that it is not everyone’s circumstance.
My parents were just really driven themselves and worked very hard, and they encouraged us to be the same way. I always played sports in school, and I had so many good coaches and teachers along the way, that I really look up to.
Matt: How has education shaped your path?
Ronda: I always enjoyed the math and sciences through school and excelled at that. I chose pharmacy and with Ohio Northern University so close, it seemed like a good fit for me. Then when I graduated from ONU, I went to Ohio State to get my doctorate in pharmacy and then came home and got married to begin my life here.
The first job that opened up was more of a management job. I thought well, I will try it for a while. (laughter) At that point, I got hooked. I truly enjoyed managing and leading. I got my MBA following and realized I loved leading and loved working all the variety of disciplines in healthcare.
Matt: What is the difference between managing and leading?
Ronda: There are a lot of good people who can manage. Managing requires a good understanding of process and function and operations. When you cross over into the world of leadership, it requires a deeper level of strategies and helping your team solve problems and helping them to excel at their position. Leadership is also about getting people in the right roles and then getting out of their way.
Matt: Why healthcare for you?
Ronda: I would say faith-based healthcare for me aligns with the values that I bring. I love people and love interacting with people. I recognize that being with people in healthcare allows me to have an impact with people at the most joyful, the most vulnerable, sometimes the saddest moments of people’s lives. It allows you to have a deep connection with people. It felt fundamental, and at my core, and healthcare allowed me to bring my faith as well.
Matt: What advice would give people entering the workforce?
Ronda: I believe there is such value at proving yourself at that first opportunity. I am goal-oriented, I love goals. I write down goals and work toward goals. Sometimes people want to skip so many steps that are highly valuable. Bloom where you are planted! I started as an intern here in the pharmacy.
Matt: How was your experience with Allen Lima Leadership Program?
Ronda: I really enjoyed the ALL Program. As someone who grew up in Allen County, I thought I had seen a lot. However, going through the program, I was blown away! It’s life-changing to see all the businesses and see firsthand behind the scenes and see our impact globally and around our state and region. I absolutely loved getting to meet the people in the class. It creates a bond and tremendous amount of respect for all of the wonderful things happening in Allen County.