My professional mission is simple, to develop tomorrow’s leaders in medicine. As technology advances and demographics shift, the need for strong leadership in every field is more important now than ever. I’d argue that this is especially true in healthcare given that lives are at stake.
Doctors must be leaders. Take a moment to think about what our professional mandate is. We lead people to better physical and mental well-being. Throughout our schooling, we are taught how care for patients, which is essential, but there is an obvious lack in leadership training. This leads to poor alignment between members of healthcare teams and a dysfunctional system. My role in medicine, is to turn the tide and help future doctors understand the importance of leadership at an early stage. Furthermore, I desire to guide you all along the journey of becoming strong leaders. That being said, here are three essential items I believe everyone must do in order to become an excellent leader.
- Start by following. Physicians tend to have a“Type A” personality. Too often, we want to jump straight into the helm and take control of the ship. This eagerness is a great quality to have,but it must be controlled. Strong leaders are not made overnight. Before you can lead anybody, you must first know what it means to be a follower. Being a follower allows you to study the characteristics of a leader. Take a moment to think about one person who leads you in life. Now write down 5 characteristics of that person. Are they good at leading? Why or why not? How do they communicate with you? Do they do what they say they’ll do? What specifically makes them a good or bad leader? As a follower of this person,how do they make you feel in various circumstances? These are all questions you should actively contemplate in order to prepare yourself to lead at higher levels.
- Learn to listen. Leading is about serving. Jesus once said, “the greatest among you will be your servant.” When you are the leader, you put other people’s desires at the top and yours at the bottom. In order to know what they want and need, you must listen to them. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they are trying to lead is talking too much. We have been sold a false image of what a strong leader looks like, and often the image is of an individual who is talking. The problem with people who talk too much is that they never take the time to be quiet and allow others to speak. This prohibits them from learning what other people need. If you don’t know what someone else needs, it’s rather difficult to serve them. If you’re not serving them,you’re not leading them. Learn to listen. Leading is NOT about you. It’s about THEM!
- Be willing to take the hit. This is where many weak leaders are exposed. By definition, a leader is one who is out in front. When you’re in front, you are vulnerable to take the first hit which many times is also the hardest hit. To be an effective leader, you have to be willing to take that blow for those who are following you. You must sacrifice your own well-being for the sake of theirs. Only after you have been bruised and paved a way do you bring your followers along. You bring them when the risk to benefit ratios significantly in their favor. What tends to happen with weak leaders is they have a big voice and make bold statements that attract followers. However, when danger arises, they’re not willing to take that hit! They lack conviction and commitment.
So, time for you to take the lead and chime in. What are other important characteristics that leaders need to have in order to be effective?
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