When he was 11, Newton noticed a lot of litter accumulating around the new Glenview McDonald's. He wrote the manager, asking for a job cleaning up the litter in the area. And he got it, even though, he says, "I was technically underage."
He took the $840 he made over the next three years and bought McDonald's stock. That purchase eventually allowed him to pay his way through college, buy a car, spend a summer in Europe and complete graduate school.
"Looking at new ways to solve old problems is part of who I am," he says. "I learned the benefit of that through [the McDonald's] circumstance."
Unconventional leadership is how he describes his style, meaning that he and his lieutenants—as well as the rank and file—see the value of taking risk. There are benefits of taking risks, he says. Leaders and organizations separate themselves from the pack by being able to change quickly.
"In healthcare, people are risk-averse. Complexity is often the excuse for that, and it's there, but you have drive through it. Lean into the change."
In his case, leaning into the change meant he would forego any draconian measures to save money.
"I've been disappointed in many business leaders over the years on layoffs," he says. "They are sometimes necessary, but they're very simple strategies. It doesn't take a smart person to say I'm going to lay off people."
Instead, after a very frank discussion on the challenges Swedish faced, he challenged his staff to find ways to cut costs themselves.
How Swedish Covenant Hospital staff rose to the challenge is a story in and of itself, and we'll tell it next week, in Part 2: How a CEO Empowered Staff to Save $3M and Their Jobs