In a survey of surgery department chairs last year, “communicator,” “collaborator,” “motivator,” “trustworthy,” and “giving inspiration” were all used to describe successful chairs of academic surgery departments.
Explore This IssueMarch 2021
“It tells you what it means to be part of an organization,” said Dr. Goudy. “If you cascade it from the top to the bottom and it’s always consistent and it’s always about basic core values, then it makes it easy for employees know why they’re doing things. There isn’t confusion caused by the message from the top not getting to the bottom.”
An important value that’s increasingly appreciated but still needs more recognition is ethnic diversity, said Dr. Goudy. It’s not only the “right thing” to do from a human values perspective, he said, but it also makes good business sense.
“We’re becoming a more diverse place, so if you aren’t focused on diversity, if nothing else, your talent pool is shrinking, not to mention all the innovation that you’re going to lose out on,” he said. “People are really sizing up the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion, and they may give a hard pass to an organization that has the perfect job for them” if these elements are lacking.
Dr. Goudy also pointed out how organizations that take diversity seriously keep careful track of the percentages of unrepresented minorities in their departments and follow the trends over time. This is crucial if organizations expect to make gains in their ethnic diversity, he said. “You have to measure it if you want to improve it,” Dr. Goudy said.
Alessandro de Alarcón, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Pediatric Voice Disorders at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said the debate continues on whether leaders are born or whether they can be made. He believes the latter is true.
In a survey of surgery department chairs last year, “communicator,” “collaborator,” “motivator,” “trustworthy,” and “giving inspiration” were all used to describe successful chairs of academic surgery departments. “Many of these are things that can be taught and can be trained,” Dr. de Alarcón said.
In the Michigan Surgical Leadership Program, said Dr. de Alarcón, an important leadership element that’s taught is a “time-value equation” in which there’s a constant assessment of how time is being used and a switching of gears if it can be spent better in some other way. The element also includes a level of introspection that allows a leader to take constructive criticism and put it to use. The program provides a way for new leaders to put into practice what they’ve learned.
Opportunities for leadership training abound, Dr. de Alarcón said, with internal institutional programs, outside leadership training, and leadership components of academic programs, such as MPH and MBA degrees. Growth and leadership coaches can also be helpful, he said, adding that matching someone with the right coach is crucial, along with having defined goals and an open mind. “Sometimes it’s important to work with individuals who are outside of the specialty or even outside of medicine because they can offer perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise get,” he said.
In a discussion after the presentation, moderator Romaine Johnson, MD, MPH, associate professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, cautioned the virtual audience, “At the end of the day, much of this is on you. You have to show up, you have to put in the work, you have to believe in yourself, and you have to bet on yourself.”
Dr. Johnson also said the Triological Society can help with leadership development. “For those of you thinking about expanding your networks, and showing that you mean business, this is a great society to join.”