Former Aetna CEO Proposes Corporate Leadership that 'Upends the Capitalist Model'

March 20, 2019

By Spencer Feingold

Mark Bertolini has long advocated for alternative leadership styles and new approaches to health care. But the former CEO Aetna is now laying out his philosophy in a new book, “Mission-Driven Leadership,” which aims to “upend the capitalist model."

It is “a template for a new form of leadership,” Bertolini told Cheddar on Wednesday. “I like to refer to it as the Taoist form of leadership.”

The book argues that leadership is not about money and market share but about improving lives and communities ー it refers to spreadsheets a “poisonous tool.”

As the head of Aetna, Bertolini took steps to address income disparities within the organization and improve morale with alternative forms of wellness, such as yoga and meditation. Seeing success, he then brought the practices and philosophy to other companies through training programs and partnerships.

“We helped other companies think their way through how they can help their employees,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini's philosophy on leadership and healthcare were largely influenced by his son's cancer diagnosis and his own severe skiing accident that left him disabled for over a year.

Both experiences, he said, gave him a personal look at the drawbacks of the health system ー particularly problems with hospice care for the dying and aftercare for people recovering from major accidents or illness.

In his new book, Bertolini details the various reforms he then implemented at Aetna, including patient care procedures and internal operations.

“I was isolated for years as a drug addict with seven different narcotics,” Bertolini said of his recovery process. “I went back into the world a very different person. I went back to work and said we’ve got to change this.”

For full interview click here.