What truly defines an effective leader? Jameson Norton explains.

According to Jameson Norton, CEO of the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Outpatient Clinics, the building blocks of strong leadership include teamwork, resilience, commitment, and communication.

“People will endure great hardship, at personal sacrifice, willingly, for a great cause,” said Norton. But he argued that this requires two elements to be in place: “One is that the leader endures that same hardship, shoulder to shoulder, if able. Secondly, that the front lines understand their ‘why’ and are well-informed as to why that hardship may be necessary.” Norton’s career has provided him with ample opportunities to strengthen his leadership skills. After graduating from UVA in 2006, he began his service in the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, commanding infantry platoons overseas. Through this crash course in leadership, he discovered that he had an innate affinity for leading groups through high-pressure situations.

Back in the US, Norton searched for his next mission. While earning his MBA at Vanderbilt, he spent a night in the Vanderbilt Emergency Department and was fascinated by its rhythm. “I remember that beautiful feeling that I was home. That these were my people,” he said. Norton recognized in this experience the opportunity to be part of an operation that would create meaningful change.

Norton’s current position as the CEO of the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Outpatient Clinics requires sound judgment and quick thinking. While talking with members of the Batten community, he shared his tenets of leadership, saying, “I do believe that the mark of a great leader is how you respond under stress and whether others can rely on you in those defining moments. I have found that success in these moments of crisis comes from the hours of preparation, the knowledge and values, the trust you have built among your team, the habits of action and resilience that you have formed through past adversity.”

The nation’s current healthcare crisis has presented yet another opportunity for Norton to lead positive change. In March, he received a call from his supervisor asking him to assume the role of chief administrative officer for Nashville’s COVID-19 alternative care sites. He accepted and immediately began to map out the logistics for transforming the Music City Center into a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients, taking the everchanging situation in stride and working together with other leaders from the business, nonprofit, and public sectors.

Norton is confident that the lessons learned during this unprecedented time in history will generate important changes in medicine and access to mental health services. “I do believe that this, in the future, will enable improved access to care,” he said, pointing to the recent surge in the use of telemedicine and its ability to reach students and other individuals who cannot physically meet with a trusted mental health professional.

Norton closed the discussion by praising the efforts of Drs. Fauci and Birx in guiding the country through the current crisis. “We are all in this together. Our support for each other has never been more important. I am continually inspired by how people across the country are so passionate and willing to go out of their way to make things better for other people. There are people out there who need us to show up for them today. As we have found time and time again, people will never forget what you did for them in the midst of a crisis.”