Servant leader: Umberto P. Fedeli finds value in every relationship

It’s all about the result
Fedeli is a fierce advocate of the Cleveland Clinic. He has served on its board since 2000 and is also chair of its Government and Community Relations Committee, a committee he created at the request of Dr. Floyd Loop, a renowned heart surgeon who served as chairman and CEO at the Clinic from 1989 to 2004.

“I’m a volunteer, not an employee,” Fedeli says. “What we do is work with the Clinic and try to deal with the priorities they have. Government is very important to health care because of the nature of the business. We work with local, state and federal government on policy issues and appropriation.

“It could be individual relationships or working on strategies. We also work with trustees and doctors where they set priorities and we try to help them execute. We also work with outside consultants. There are a lot of different issues.”

Fedeli admires the Clinic’s commitment to excellence and to working toward positive outcomes, as well as the emphasis that the Clinic places on education and research to continually strive to get better.

“You start out with incredible talent,” Fedeli says. “They are the best at what they do. But the doctors have one-year contracts and they are all measured based on their performance. Everything is measured. And the people who evaluate them aren’t HR people, they are their peers.

“The guy who evaluates the heart doctor is a heart doctor. Who is a good colorectal doctor? Colorectal doctors would know. The patient’s interest, the nurse’s interest, the doctor’s interest, the hospital’s interest — it’s all aligned in the same direction. They’re not just going through the motions. Did we get the patient through the surgery? Did we save their life? Did we get rid of the problem? It’s not just about going through the motions. It’s about the outcome.”

Fedeli has also served on the Clinic’s executive committee and for more than a decade has served as event chair for the HeartThrob Ball, the annual gala that benefits Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

It’s an event for which he has helped raise millions of dollars. His efforts for the Clinic were commemorated in 2016 when both Fedeli and Maryellen were honored as Distinguished Fellows and inducted into the 1921 Society, the Clinic’s highest benefactor circle, which honors those who have made extraordinary contributions of services and resources to the Cleveland Clinic.

“We should all aspire to get paid to do something you believe in so much, we’d do it for free,” says Kristen Morris, chief government and community relations officer at the Clinic. “Umberto is a living example of that ambition.

“His business model is a perpetual celebration of friends and family and it’s made him extremely successful. I’ve heard him say, ‘Do the right things, for the right reasons, and good things will come.’ I guess he’s been doing the right things for the right reasons.”

Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, who retired in December as the Clinic’s president and CEO, presented Fedeli several years ago for his induction into the Cleveland Business Hall of Fame.

“Elected officials make the rules in a city,” Cosgrove said in his remarks. “But it’s the unelected leaders like Umberto Fedeli who set the tone. They’re the ones who make things happen. His vision and enthusiasm are priceless.”

A selfless approach to service
Fundraising is a big part of Fedeli’s life. His home in Gates Mills has hosted dinners that have included many well-known individuals, including President George W. Bush. His office is filled with photos of Bush’s visit to his home, as well as shots of Fedeli with people like Gov. Mitt Romney, House Speaker Paul Ryan, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and even one with Cleveland Browns legend Bernie Kosar.

“I’ve been blessed to have so many relationships,” Fedeli says. “It could be relationships with my friends, family, public officials or people who may be well known. Those relationships are my focus, the center of everything. You can never underestimate how important relationships are with everyone you deal with.

“Am I going above and beyond? Am I solving problems? Am I adding value? How do I add value in every relationship? You play to your strengths. You don’t need to know everything. You just need to know who knows better.”

One of the greatest honors of Fedeli’s life was when he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2003.

Sponsored by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, this award is presented annually to a select group of individuals for their accomplishments in their field and areas of service. It has been awarded to seven U.S. presidents, former Vice President Joe Biden, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Coretta Scott King, Muhammad Ali, Lee Iacocca and Rosa Parks, among other distinguished honorees.

“I got this letter and I didn’t know what it was,” Fedeli says. “I went to New York and to Ellis Island and there were all these military bands playing. I’m sitting there and looking at the honorees and thinking, ‘They must have made a mistake.’”

There was no mistake. Fedeli is proud of his Italian heritage and is currently chairman of the Northern Ohio Italian American Foundation, a charitable organization he helped establish in 1995.

But among all these honors, there are a few titles that don’t make headlines, but bring just as much, if not more personal pride.

“Husband, dad, grandfather and friend,” says Fedeli. “I’m blessed to have had so many relationships with friends, family, public officials and people who may be well-known. That’s my focus, that’s my center.”