We have a Special Sort of Crazy Here

I have found that leaders are often chosen for characteristics that have little or no correlation with their eventual successful tenure as a leader. Time and time again, and through various famous books and articles, we learn that the leadership attributes that truly matter, are often hard to quantify on paper or in just one face-to-face interview. And yet, leadership matters. And while we all have similar institutional characteristics, we all know that the local politics and organizational culture differs from one AMC to another. In other words, everyone has a ‘special sort of crazy’ in their own office.

Management – Complexity vs. Leadership – Change

As with many things, the lines between leadership and management often blend together and can become confusing. For example, it is often the case that being the boss isn’t the same as being the leader. While management tends to deal with the complexity of an organization,  leadership often deals with change.  In these areas, you need to recognize your own personal strengths. Are you good at complex processes? Or, are you good at managing change implementation? Not all good managers are good leaders, and not all good leaders are good managers. Find your own strengths and lean on them, develop them. If you’re not sure, or you don’t know – you will never know unless you ask. It’s normal to solicit feedback from your mentors and leaders.

The ‘Right’ People

Jim Collins (2001) is famous for saying, “Great organizations started by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” I remember the first time I heard that phrase. I was listening to the audiobook version while driving to work, and I literally pulled the car off the road so I could make a note of the quote. There is something so poignant in this phrase about leaders fostering the right culture by setting a clear and compelling direction and starting with the ‘right’ people. I’ve often also heard the phrase that “culture eats strategy for breakfast; process and structure for lunch; and well-meaning people for dinner.” It can be hard to choose the right people to lead and/or manage a team to success, making sure you have the right people on your team is a good first step in the right direction.

Strategy on Becoming more Leader-y

As with any career development, you should think about your overall career path and where you want to end up. Specifically, do you want to be a department chair, director, or vice-president over several different types of specialties? Or, are you called to one particular area and perhaps you just want to be the team lead for that division or team? One of the most important things is to recognize your personal goals and build your career development from there. You can modify leadership potential simply by adding more ‘tools’ to your toolbox, or discarding ‘tools’ that don’t work.

Where to Start

In response to the argument that leaders are ‘born’ and not ‘made,’ I say that anyone can work on their emotional intelligence and therefore anyone has the capacity to become a good leader.  Emotional Intelligence is your ability to recognize, manage and control your emotions, and to also translate those skills to influence the emotions of others. Emotional Intelligence is one of the most important tools for every leader. If you’re not sure where to begin on your leadership journey, start with: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. And remember, a good leader is always willing to adapt and change.

Last Nuggets of Wisdom

Google ‘geese and leadership‘. And, ‘wolves and leadership‘. Other things to work on: personal brand at work of unquestionable integrity, learn how to use humor effectively, always respect others’ time, learn how to negotiate, learn how to be confident without being arrogant, lead a healthy and balanced life in and out of work, get better at providing and asking for feedback, learn how to be an active listener, and get better at having difficult conversations.