“Leadership skills” was one of the most under-qualified statements I’ve written on my resume as a young adult. At that time I had no idea what it meant to be an effective and efficient leader. Look at your inbox today and you’ll see ample opportunities for leadership seminars, lectures, and workshops. Nearly everyone wants to learn how to be a revered and respected leader.
Think about it: In medicine, a necessary skill to survive is being a leader. You have to lead a team (of sometimes one) in admitting a patient, developing a multidisciplinary care plane, discharging the patient, and following up. Additionally, you may very well be leading review courses, interest or professional groups, or even patient advocate groups.
What we’ve failed to realize as medical professionals is that our leadership skills are put to the test on a daily basis. We have an incredible amount of opportunities to polish up and work on our leadership skills in the confines of the hospital.
The top five opportunities to lead by example and advance your leadership skills at a hospital:
1. Be knowledgeable
To lead, you must know. I’m talking about the ins and outs of what you do on a daily basis. Know everything that can go wrong, and everything that can right. Anticipate problematic situations and complications, and understand when you need to ask your staff to intervene. If you do not have an adequate understanding of what it is you do, you will not make an effective leader. Even if you are a medical student, know how to be a near perfect medical student at your level of training, enough to be able to give intelligible advice.
2. Be approachable
Attempt to instill a sense of comfort with your staff whenever you are in the picture. They should know that they can rely on your to fix problems, and therefore are able to tell you about them. Listen to these issues without prejudice or bias, and try to give each issue its own merit. Be polite when dealing with your staff’s issues. This can come in the form of talking to your patients’ nurses and ancillary staff or even seeing patients’ families at clinic.
3. Lead by doing
Delegating tasks is only one of very many obligations to becoming a great leader. However, helping others is sometimes, dare I say, a natural quality of good leaders. Leaders make sure their staff has the necessary tools, time, and hands to do their jobs. Sometimes the leader is that extra tool, extra time, and the extra set of hands.
4. If you don’t know, look
One of the most forgotten qualities of great leaders is knowing when they should ask for help and from whom. Try to learn from the successes and mistakes of others. Lastly, know how to decipher genuinely good advice from nonsense, this will take some time to figure out.
5. Recognize others for their work
One of the most overlooked qualities of good leaders is recognizing the achievements of their staff. Often times it is the leader that gets credit for success, whereas the driving force behind it is the staff. Keeping your staff happy is a cornerstone of successful leadership.
These are my personal top five must-dos of leading, however I am still learning throughout my medical career. Take the time to build on your skills as soon as you step foot in the hospital.
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