At our annual R2 Unit training yesterday, our keynote speaker shared about Practicing Courageous Leadership. Erica Davis is Program Manager for Organizational Design and Provider Engagement for St. Luke's Health System. During this half-day occupational readiness training for about 30 program year two residents (drawn from three local and two East Idaho residencies), Erica talked about some of the core competencies of what leaders do and how they behave.
It is a talk I wish all of our members could hear. She started by asking how many of the residents thought of themselves as leaders and was happily surprised by about ¾ of the room indicating yes. She said this was unusually high and that most physicians she talks with don't see themselves that way unless they hold an official leadership post.
She said, one of the things that are true about all leaders is that they help navigate change. To understand this, we might think of this breaking down into at least three skills:
1) Can you envision a future that is different than the present? Many doctors – read 'scientists trained in science and evidence-based medicine' - have given up on honing their creative and imagination skills, so this is often an area where they get stuck.
2) Can you paint a picture of that future in terms that captures the hearts and minds of others, or at the very least, your own? It is not enough to complain about the present: leadership requires the ability to put some specifics about where you want to go into words or pictures that motivate
3) Can you help people identify and get over obstacles moving towards that future? These obstacles might include internal and external objections to change and you may need to help redesign systems and environments to support attitudinal and behavioral change.
As a physician, you could find yourself leading in one or more of these realms beginning with:
1) Yourself! Internal motivation, setting goals, and self-discipline – you all have this in you if you made it through medical school and residency. Although Erica has the official title of "program manager" for provider engagement, the fact is all physicians need to take on this title as it relates to themselves.
2) Patients. Is not enough to have the medical knowledge of what is wrong with a person's health or even what the solution is. You also must learn the skills of empathy, motivational interviewing, and behavioral change management.
3) Teams. Unless you are the only individual in your office, you have a team to lead. This means growing in your knowledge of group dynamics, conflict resolution, encouraging people, and measuring progress.
4) Organization. Whether it is your own small business or you are responsible for an entire department, you have to get stronger in communication, quality control, budgeting, environmental scanning and systems change management.
5) Culture. This is by far the hardest to bring leadership to because it involves helping shape the way people think before they change their behavior. But it also has the greatest potential for long-term transformation and something that physicians should not shrink back from.
Although some are born with a greater leadership inclination than others, these are skills you can learn. Erica's talk leaned heavily on social scientist, Brené Brown, who pretty much owns the global market on the topic of vulnerability. Any of her books are a great start in "Daring to Lead" and I hope you will dare yourself to do just that.