CHICAGO-Organizational medicine relies on the skills and talents of many people who work hard to contribute their best to the advancement of medical care and, most important, to improving the health and well-being of their patients. Among the many people who oil the great machinery of organized medicine are the people who take on the responsibilities of leadership. What are the paths to leadership positions in academic medicine, and how do people determine which path is best for them? What are some of the ways otolaryngologists and head and neck surgeons, in particular, can do to advance into leadership positions within their specialties?
Explore this issue:January 2009
These were some of the issues raised in a miniseminar on leadership development at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) 2008 annual meeting, which focused on giving participants some practical nuts-and-bolts tips on how to think about leadership, strive toward leadership roles, and take practical steps to achieving a leadership role.
Preparing for a Leadership Role
For Linda Pololi, MBBS, Senior Scientist and Principal Investigator of the National Initiative on Gender, Culture, and Leadership in Medicine at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA, talking about achieving leadership roles in academic medicine is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. Instead of focusing specifically on how to become a leader, she emphasizes the importance of focusing on the overall process of establishing one’s career path that ultimately may arrive in a leadership role but is not solely defined in terms of becoming a leader.
Leadership is really much more about how I want to contribute, what changes I would like to make, not just about how to be a leader, she said.
As the principal investigator and founding director for a US Public Health Service-funded National Center of Leadership in Academic Medicine, Dr. Pololi created an instrument to help medical faculty think about career development and advancement. Geared toward both men and women, the instrument is based on a nine-step strategy that begins with what may be the most critical and underused step that many professionals never undertake-a reflective first step in which a person clarifies his or her most important values and standards that govern all aspects of their life.
After identifying these values, the following steps are built on prioritizing these values; identifying one’s strengths; identifying where one wants to be in 10 years based on these values and strengths; identifying logical intermediary goals at one, three, and five years to help to realistically reach the 10-year goal; identifying skills and tasks that are needed to develop over the first year toward reaching the goals; writing a learning contract for each skill or task that one wants to develop over the first year to help plan how to accomplish one’s goals; and asking one’s supervisor to review the plan to see if it fits in with the goals of the deparment or unit and, if not, be willing to negotiate ways to achieve one’s learning goals and adjusting one’s timelines. The final step is to repeat the steps involved in identifying skills, writing a learning contract, and having your supervisor review it based on three- and five-year goals.