Daniel E Greenleaf On How We Need To Redefine Success

Be yourself! I know it sounds funny, but I think the journey inward is a big part of that. Again, we get these distractions around social media that disrupt our journey toward self-awareness. This prevents people from following their souls, and it gets in the way of finding meaningful work. Have you ever noticed how […]

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Be yourself! I know it sounds funny, but I think the journey inward is a big part of that. Again, we get these distractions around social media that disrupt our journey toward self-awareness. This prevents people from following their souls, and it gets in the way of finding meaningful work.


Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Daniel E. Greenleaf.

Daniel E. Greenleaf was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Modivcare in December 2019. Greenleaf is an innovator across the healthcare industry who brings over 25 years of experience successfully transforming healthcare companies through periods of growth.

He served as President and CEO of BioScrip, Inc., the largest independent provider of infusion and home care management solutions. There he spearheaded the turnaround and successful merger with Option Care Health.

Prior to BioScrip, he was the CEO and Chairman of Home Solutions Infusion Services where he led the turnaround and eventual sale to BioScrip. Before Home Solutions Infusion Services, Greenleaf was the President and CEO of Coram Specialty Services, where he was instrumental in growing Coram to become the top-performing home infusion company in the country prior to its sale to CVS.

Greenleaf graduated from Denison University with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and holds a Master of Business Administration in Health Administration from the University of Miami. He is a military veteran, having served as captain and navigator in the United States Air Force.


Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one or two life experiences, though I would say my parents played a significant role in shaping how I see the world. Both were public servants; my father was a military officer who served for 35 years, and my mother was a teacher who instructed disabled children. And they always seemed to do selfless things, whether it was delivering Meals on Wheels or volunteer work or working with the church. It was very much this idea of being a servant, this notion of servant leadership, and following your passions. One of the beautiful things about my parents is they had five kids, and we all did something different. And though my parents wanted us to be successful, they wanted us to follow our passions. It gave me the freedom to listen to what my soul was telling me about what I wanted to do with my life and the things that were important to me. I believe that God gives you gifts, and it’s your responsibility to optimize those and put yourself in a situation where your gifts can be of their highest use. My parents did that.

We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?

There was this myth that if you did well economically, that would solve your problems. That’s not true, however; those things don’t go away because you have money. I also think that there was a time where — again, I didn’t act on this — but at some early point in my career, at Schering-Plough, I saw a ton of superficiality, and some of the people I would describe as very superficial succeeded in that environment. Today I don’t believe you have to be superficial to be successful.

Many people lose their way by getting very hung up on the future; what will I do in the future? I would argue that your focus should be on doing the best in the job you’re in now. Is it always going to work out? No, but if you’re putting your best foot forward and doing the best possible work, that’s going to define you.

How has your definition of success changed?

There was a time when I believed through reading management books that there was a particular style that would succeed, and I just don’t believe that anymore. For me, the key to good management is that you scale up or down to the situation; it’s not all equal. The best leaders can scale up and they can scale down. And taking a laissez-faire or hands-off attitude is a ridiculous way to approach business. It’s a good way to take a business over the cliff.

Something else I learned is that it doesn’t take long to screw up a good company. Most of the time, when I stepped in to run a company, the previous leadership had made a host of mistakes. It’s amazing how quickly someone or a group of people can do severe damage to an organization. I agree with business management author Jim Collins that the most critical variable for a CEO isn’t that person’s upside, but their downside.

The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?

During the pandemic the inequities of our healthcare system became even more apparent, whether that be in the area of food deserts, broadband deserts, pharmacy deserts or, importantly, vaccine deserts; that is, how difficult we made it for certain people to get vaccinated. There wasn’t much consideration given to the person making an hourly wage who had to get shots on two separate occasions versus people who could take off a couple of days to get their vaccinations without any significant implications to their job or wages. We saw a high degree of insensitivity regarding the challenges many people face just to get vaccinated or receive care. This highlighted the need to address social determinants of health. It’s not about all these costly clinical interventions. I’m not saying there isn’t value in that, but the single most crucial factor in determining the health outcome for a person is where they live. It’s their zip code. And if it’s about your zip code, then it is about social determinants of health — food insecurity, access to transportation, the activities of daily living. It’s about remote monitoring, so if there’s an issue, people can quickly access their healthcare network.

Underserved patient populations dealt with these types of social determinants way before the pandemic. Having a helping hand, a transportation provider or a caregiver, a personal aide, or someone talking to them through remote monitoring or delivering a meal — these are game-changers. And I believe we as a society have a much deeper awareness around the implications of vast segments of our population not feeling connected and not being cared for or about. What they call The Great Resignation, that to me is about people being disenfranchised.

What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.

I can look at it from two perspectives. Personally, I experienced a lot of gratitude. I know that’s not necessarily the term most people would use, but I experienced a heightened sense of gratitude around my experience during the pandemic. And there are a lot of reasons for that. Also, the shutdown gave me a little time to pause, and I think many of us who have been travel warriors for years began to ask themselves why we’re robotically getting on all these treadmills over and over again. It gave us time to step back. One of the great blessings for me was that my son in college and came home for six months. When’s that ever going to happen again? Just spending time with him and his girlfriend and his friends from college was incredible. And even for me personally, connecting with neighbors — we would all sit out on our porches for an evening, so we built this wonderful community. Some of these people became great friends.

The other thing, from a business standpoint, the pandemic heightened our sense of urgency because these underserved populations haven’t had great access to healthcare; they haven’t had great experiences. We’re more determined than ever about what we’re doing, and we have a different level of urgency because, at the end of the day, we always tie it back to the patient. If that were your mom or dad, or your grandparents, or your child, or your sibling, or your significant other, how would you handle these situations? If it were me, I would get in my car and pick them up. So that was a positive result from the pandemic.

We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

First, I’ve talked about listening to your soul and what it is telling you about where your time, talents, and treasures should be spent. As part of that, get rid of the distractions. Stop with the social media and other things that get in the way of you building self-awareness. Second, work around people you love. I’m so blessed in that regard because if you can be in a situation where you work with people you love, it’s just a different experience and kind of where I am in my life.

The third is to embrace uncertainty. The unknown is your friend, and you should be willing to be fearless about it. I am not scared of the unknown. If I don’t know something, I’m confident I’ll figure it out. Getting back to what we’re trying to do with patients to change their lives and the trajectory of healthcare in the U.S., I am determined but not scared.

A fourth way to redefine success is to be accountable to your friends, family, loved ones, and business. It’s so essential that the buck stops with you. You need to own it, whether you like it or not, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Another obvious but important way is to continue growing and learning. That’s №5. You can learn from anybody. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas or different ways of thinking about things. I might be on a conference call, and another person will perfectly articulate something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. So there are many resources out there, and I wouldn’t limit my thinking to just business podcasts and the like. I try to remain open-minded and receptive to new ideas.

I’ll throw in a bonus item for the list: Be yourself! I know it sounds funny, but I think the journey inward is a big part of that. Again, we get these distractions around social media that disrupt our journey toward self-awareness. This prevents people from following their souls, and it gets in the way of finding meaningful work.

How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?

For me, it is all about fulfillment. At Modivcare, we want to put people in jobs that fulfill them. We want you to love what you do. We want you to be a better person for coming to work.

What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?

In my view, it’s all about self-awareness and, in some respects, self-regulation — neither of which you will find on Facebook or by listening to the news. But there are some things you could be doing to improve self-awareness and self-regulation, like meditating, journaling, reading, listening, getting into nature, being healthy, and getting away from addictions. That could be seven cups of coffee a day. I’ve done it. However, all that does is get you riled up and steer you away from finding your story.

Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?

You have to look within, and you have to do the work, and you have to realize that it’s a journey. I don’t think there’s a single epiphany; instead, it’s a series of course corrections you’re constantly making. But the only way you make those course corrections is by building self-awareness. That work is within. You’re not going to get it through TV, Netflix, social media, alcohol, drugs — those things will distract you from that journey. You also should surround yourself with like-minded people.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.

He recently passed away, but it would have been Colin Powell. He is somebody who operated with enormous integrity, somebody who loved our country, warts and all. He saw who we were as a country and how we evolved while clearly understanding that we weren’t perfect. Colin Powell is someone who overcame enormous odds. He was the son of Jamaican immigrants in the Bronx, went to City College of New York and eventually became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then-Secretary of State. He also had a wonderful sense of humor and was an incredible family man who was unbelievably devoted to his wife. He never ran for president because he didn’t think it was in the best interest of his wife. He wasn’t a megalomaniac who felt the universe revolved around him. Ultimately, Colin Powell was committed to service. He wanted to serve others. That always was his true north.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can learn more about ModivCare at www.modivcare.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

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