Leadership in a Crisis: A Conversation with Jodi Hubler

DiversityLeadershipHealthcare
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Noël Auguston
November 08, 2021
3 min read
DiversityLeadershipHealthcare
Executive summary
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone on both a personal and a business level. During this time, women leaders have stepped up to the challenges.
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Jodi Hubler brings a dynamic background to the roles she has held as a VC investor and, most recently, as President of Bind, a health insurance company looking to disrupt the healthcare market. Hubler had been a Bind board member since its founding in 2016, and joined the company as president in. 2019. She was previously CEO/Managing Director of Lemhi Ventures, a health care services venture capital fund with $385 million under management.

During her 25-year career, Hubler has held executive positions in both public and private sector companies, including Cargill, Alcoa, and Definity Health. In talking with her — our conversation touched on everything from growing up in Iowa and cutting her teeth in Washington D.C., to the challenges of women leaders and the changing dynamics of the healthcare industry — Hubler frequently circled back to how important it is to encourage women leaders to be bold.

Here are just two highlights of our conversation.

On Leadership in a Crisis

There is no shortage of studies, papers, and opinions on differences between male and female leaders, particularly in times of crisis. From Hubler’s perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a demanding test case that plays to the strengths of female leaders. It was, and still is, the rare challenge that affects everyone on both a personal and a business level, and female leaders clearly stepped up to the challenges.

During our conversation, Hubler cited a December 2020 article in the Harvard Business Review, in which Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman highlighted research conducted early in the COVID crisis that found women made better business leaders than men during the pandemic. Female leaders scored higher in 13 of 19 competency metrics. Zenger and Folkman concluded:

[Employees] want leaders who are able to pivot and learn new skills; who emphasize employee development even when times are tough; who display honesty and integrity; and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, anxiety, and frustration that people are feeling. Our analysis shows that these are traits that are more often being displayed by women.

One of the most important takeaways was how the pandemic accentuated some of the most positive traits women leaders offer. “This research confirmed what we have seen before: female leaders were more willing to pause amid the crisis, to be vulnerable and authentic in acknowledging with empathy what was happening,” Hubler said. “In the early days of the pandemic, is took courage to say we don’t know what we don’t know, but we’re going to work through this together.”

It was this ability to normalize the situation and communicate openly with employees and customers that Hubler believes were the biggest leadership differentiators. Female leaders were particularly adept at enabling their organizations to focus on the needs of the business while also supporting employees’ self-care at home with family.

On Challenging Investment Bias

Along with discussing leadership during the pandemic, Hubler provided insights into the differences she has seen between companies with male versus female leaders in the healthcare space. One of the biggest challenges is the gender gap in funding.

Female-led companies have long received less capital to grow their businesses than companies with male founders. RockHealth’s 2020 Diversity in Digital Health Survey showed that 80% of companies founded by men received either angel or venture funding compared to just 53% of companies founded by women.

“There are many ways to rationalize investment bias, but it something we must reconcile,” Hubler said. “Growing data on the effectiveness of female leaders from the C-suite to the Board suggests that investors have a tremendous amount to gain by paying more attention to the gender balance of the companies and leaders they hire, invest in, and support.”

Closing the gap will happen one investor, one company, one leader at a time. Hubler mentioned in our discussion she has seen an increase in the number of women in venture firms, more mentoring among women leaders, and greater respect for authenticity and vulnerability as leadership traits.

“I’m beginning to see women [leaders] create that vital few,” Hubler said. “They — we — work collaboratively. We create groups to come alongside and support one another, invest in one another,  take risks together.”

She also sees networks of  women in business leadership as a vital source of support for younger and mid-career women with the drive and talent to identify needs and then start and grow companies to address those needs.

“Many of the female healthcare leaders I meet have begun thinking bigger about themselves and the work they do,” said Hubler. “They aren’t worrying as much about titles or positions, but instead are focusing on driving change and the impact they can have on the healthcare ecosystem. They are building a legacy.”