HEC Paris Leaders of Tomorrow Series

Applying EMBA Lessons to Leadership and Saving Lives

Steven Tidwell

“I am proud of Laerdal and our approach to help the global response to COVID-19.” Laerdal Medical’s Director of Programs Steven Tidwell on harnessing the power of his Executive MBA in the healthcare sector.

In this Q&A interview, HEC Paris Executive MBA participant Steven Tidwell shares his passion for learning, the true qualities of leadership, and what it’s like working in the healthcare industry in the time of COVID-19.

Steven Tidwell is an American who has been living in Norway for the past seven years, where he works as Director of Programs at Laerdal Medical.

The last few weeks for this HEC Paris Executive MBA participant have been particularly high-pressure, as Laerdal Medical have been working tirelessly to double the number of emergency ventilators available in Norway in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the long work hours, Steven has been juggling the final stages of his Executive MBA with being a new dad.

Steven took some time out of his very busy schedule to share why he chose to pursue an HEC Paris Executive MBA, how it helped him to achieve a promotion, and why Laerdal’s COVID-19 response has highlighted that true leadership requires leaders knowing when to follow.

Where do you come from and how did you end up living in Norway?

I’m originally from Chicago, U.S. I bounced around a little bit before moving to New York to work for my current company Laerdal Medical, a medical company based in Norway. After a few years in New York, I made the jump and moved to Norway and have been there for seven years now. It’s a healthcare education company doing a lot of different and innovative things related to product development and education. I’m very happy working here. I feel that if you’re able to make a positive impact on society while doing things that you enjoy, that’s a pretty good deal.

And what is your role at Laerdal?

I’m Director of Programs.  We create platforms to deliver end-to-end educational programs for the market. This could be collaborations with our existing partners such as the American Heart Association, or new collaborators. We’re really looking to go in and make an impact and understand what areas of improvement can result in the most positive effects for society. Our 2020 goal was to help save 500,000 more lives every year and we will be looking to grow that number even further.

“Our 2020 goal was to help save 500,000 more lives every year and we will be looking to grow that number even further.” Steven Tidwell, Director of Programs, Laerdal Medical. 

Wow that is a lot of saved lives. What are some of the ways you aim to achieve this?

CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a big part of who we are as a company, it’s part of the genesis of the company itself. We have a specific resuscitation business unit that is completely focused on helping improve survival from cardiac arrest. We focus most of our efforts in two ways.

One is to address the first chain in the chain of survival and that’s about creating live savers in the public. The earlier that CPR EMBA programcan be delivered to a potential patient, the more likely that patient is to survive. We develop products to practice and train in CPR to ensure a high standard of response. The second part of our focus is on the professionals. Quality CPR and other more sophisticated interventions around cardiac arrest are extremely important.

What has been Laerdal’s response to the current COVID-19 crisis?

Recently, the Norwegian Prime Minister introduced our Chairman and CEO, Tore Lærdal, to announce a new emergency ventilator Laerdal have designed in partnership with the Norwegian Defense Research Institute and Servi AS. Design and initial industrialization took roughly 2 weeks- it has been an incredible undertaking from multiple groups to get this done. It is designed utilizing easily accessible components and can be installed rapidly across the country as a last resort emergency measure. Laerdal and partners will produce 1000 units by June 1st, doubling the number of emergency ventilators in Norway.

“Laerdal and partners will produce 1000 units by June 1st, doubling the number of emergency ventilators in Norway.”

This is one way the Laerdal organization is working to do our part to help battle COVID-19. Other areas that won’t get the same attention are training on donning and doffing Personal Protective Equipment, simulation scenarios to prepare providers for dealing with incoming COVID patients, rapidly upscaling our production of medical devices,  and dozens of other initiatives teams are working on delivering to market quickly.

I have personally played a small part in this, but I am proud of Laerdal and our approach to help the global response to COVID-19. All of this has been possible from exceptional leadership from our CEO, COO, and entire executive team, not to mention the contributions from our entire organization- from sales to product development to manufacturing/ SC, to facilities personnel to our services group and many more. Everyone has stepped up to the plate to do their part. It has been inspiring, humbling, and instills great pride.

“I am proud of Laerdal and our approach to help the global response to COVID-19. Everyone has stepped up to the plate to do their part. It has been inspiring, humbling, and instills great pride.”

Do you feel the Executive MBA has helped you to be more prepared in your role at a medical company for a crisis like the current one, and how Laerdal can respond to provide support where needed?

I am not sure anything can prepare someone for the extraordinary circumstances we all face today, but I do think that my EMBA is helping me navigate it in a rational and empathetic way. I think it has given me the self-awareness to know where to focus and career agilitywhen to follow. This is an exceptional time and good leadership also requires good followership. The strong leadership from our C-Suite has been swift and decisive. Therefore, it requires committed followership to be executed in a meaningful way.

There are times to lead and times to follow- if too many people want to lead in a crisis, it becomes uncoordinated chaos that will lead to inaction. Understanding that egos must be pushed aside to create a cohesive and coordinated support package to healthcare providers must be the focus. In a way, yes, it has prepared me to lead, but it has also provided me with the humility to understand the bigger picture and realize that even leaders must follow.

“I am not sure anything can prepare someone for the extraordinary circumstances we all face today, but I do think that my EMBA is helping me navigate it in a rational and empathetic way.”

What prompted you to consider doing an Executive MBA with HEC?

I enjoy learning. I’d been thinking about it for a while, but it came down to timing. I felt that at this point in my career I had gained a lot of experience running major product lines and managing globally. This helped me build a strong foundation of knowledge across different disciplines and different regions. The EMBA felt like a great way for me to take this foundational knowledge and refine it at an exceptionally high level.

And why HEC Paris?

I was going through and looking at all the schools, including the rankings, return on investment, and the HEC return on investment was through the roof exceptional. Ultimately the tipping point came when I started talking with people. Whether it was the pre-screening or the interview process, the level of depth in trying to not only understand me and how I could fit into the community, but the thoughtfulness surrounding every step, it was a different type of vibe. You could feel the authenticity and the rigor. The selection committee were interested in how HEC could help me grow as an individual, but additionally how could I help the community with my experience and what I do. It was holistic.

“The selection committee were interested in how HEC could help me grow as an individual, but additionally how could I help the community with my experience and what I do. It was holistic.”

You’ve been promoted during your Executive MBA. Do you feel the things you’ve been learning during the program helped you to achieve that promotion?

Absolutely, there’s no question. I think the Leadership Program was quite transformative in that you get a keen understanding for who you are, how you fit, and how you lead. The feedback you receive and the time that you spend shaping your next steps was crucial for me. The various areas – building knowledge, understanding how this all fits together – to drive successful and effective business has been extremely important. So yes, the HEC Paris Executive MBA has played large part in my growth.

“I think the Leadership Program was quite transformative in that you get a keen understanding for who you are, how you fit, and how you lead.”

Taking some time for yourself is crucial in order to be able to function at such a high-level juggling many different tasks and Sundays are perfect for this. How do you like to relax on a Sunday?

My wife and I welcomed our son towards the end of 2019. I am introverted by nature, so I need quiet time to think and recharge for the week to come which Sundays are perfect for. Although its not as quiet as it used to be, I really just enjoy spending time with my wife and son. We try to go for a walk in nature but have no set routine. I just want to be together for the day. I try to read a little bit or get a quick workout in. During the fall, we’ll try to catch some American football and feel like we’re home in the US for an hour or two. It doesn’t happen a lot now (laughs) but when it does, it’s ideal.

What is the one key takeaway that’s really stuck with you from the program?

Frankly, there’s been a lot, so I’ll give you two! First off, through the Leadership Program getting a keener understanding of self and empowering others. Secondly, learning how all of this and everything that we’re working on, whether it’s strategy or finance, are self-reinforcing. Business is a bit of a living organism, so how can we get all these things working together, reinforcing each other to drive towards a common goal? And for me, getting the details and the toolkit to be able to put all these things together in a harmonious way, has been invaluable.


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About the Author

HEC Paris specializes in education and research in management sciences. As a leading academic institution in Europe and worldwide, HEC Paris offers a complete and unique range of education programs for students and executive education programs for leaders.