What I’m increasingly gathering about leadership is exactly what Kristan Hawkins, Executive Director of SFLA, articulated to me last week. “It’s influence,” she said. It’s not responsibility or management or special knowledge. It’s earned in relationships.
Mrs. Hawkins drew her materials from The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, by John Maxwell. Leaders have:
- Good character, including integrity and kindness to followers and inferiors, not only to their customers
- Relationships with followers
- Knowledge, or awareness of timing and dynamic factors (e.g. when to invest, when to retreat, when to hire/fire, what next steps to take)
- Vision for the organization (and the world)
- Intuition, the ability to deal with things like staff morale and company energy and momentum
- Experience of past challenges and successes
- Ability in the chosen field
She also listed principles of leadership.
- See the big picture: where will the organization or project go? Vision attracts and commits people if you can communicate it effectively.
- Have and use goals: articulate where to go and how to get there, check your progress, and make sure no components are missed.
- Pay attention to little things before they develop into big things (this includes things in the leader’s personal life). As an example: if a staff person displays disrespect or bad behavior to a leader in front of another staffperson, a leader will speak to that second staffer privately. “I know you saw that and I want to know I am addressing it. Meanwhile, I appreciate your good work (or your being on time, or your good bedside manner, etc).”
- Be a team player, cooperate, listen. This makes quick changes possible, prevents problems being missed, and allows everyone to know other peoples’ skills (leading to high utilization and improving performance or business)
- Build relationships, at first doing menial work to prevent separating yourself from the support staff (for a new physician in a practice or a medical student new to a rotation, this means listening to the nurses, doing the “scut” without complaining, and maybe getting people coffee). Thank people: a paycheck is not a “thank-you.”
- Master your attitudes (sacrifice). A leader sets the example for her followers. An impeccable attitude flows from inner determination not shaped by circumstances. Vision should outweigh whatever temporary financial concern or other stumbling block.
- Admit mistakes. It feels better anyway, and it builds that good example.
- Work hard. Followers will work hard if you have worked hard and continue to do so.
- Hold self and others to high standards (professional, technical, and especially ethical).
- Find other people that you can move up and inspire (receptionists to business managers, pre-meds to doctors).
Med students for life typically already have that “inner determination not shaped by circumstances” that Mrs. Hawkins mentioned. All we need to do is carry forward, forming relationships and spreading the good for others.
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