In the old days, doctors used to practice medicine alone or with the help of a nurse. In the past few decades, doctors have become the leaders of an ever-expanding medical care team that can include specialists, consultants, laboratory technicians, radiologists and more.
Today’s medical students must learn new leadership strategies that will enable them to lead an even larger and more diverse team of medical professionals. These leadership strategies are applicable to almost every industry, from food service to construction.
Collaborate and cooperate
Every time a doctor treats an individual patient, she collaborates and cooperates with an army of medical professionals, including other doctors, nurses, laboratory techs, radiologists and more. No one epitomizes collaboration and cooperation more than Charles Horace Mayo who established the first integrated group practice known as Mayo Clinic in 1888. Today, the clinic has three locations in the United States and employs more than 55,000 medical and health professionals.
You can use a collaborative and cooperative approach in your industry, calling upon other professionals to help you further your goals. Associate yourself with people in your own vertical and reach out to like-minded individuals in other professions. For example, develop a team of maintenance workers with experience in hazardous waste cleanup and seek out associations with the local fingernail polish factory who might someday need your services.
Create opportunities for others
A good leader of any occupation opens new doors for everyone who follows. Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female in the United States to receive a medical degree and the first woman to appear on the UK Medical Register in 1849, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Blackwell did not stop at this remarkable achievement – she established the New York Infirmary in 1857, where she offered internships to other women determined to become physicians. Become a leader in your profession by creating opportunities for others in your field. A teacher can create institutions that show others how to educate, for example, or the CEO of a computer parts company can create night classes where students can learn how to program computers.
To be a leader, you must be courageous enough to lead others into uncharted territory. South African cardiac surgeon Christian Barnard was one of the most courageous visionaries to practice medicine. Barnard set the medical world on fire on December 3, 1967, when he led the surgical team that performed the first human-to-human heart transplant.
Pursue your goals with audacity and others will follow. People want to hitch their wagons to the brightest star possible. The boldest architects will always find the brightest contractors and builders, for example, while the most outrageous marketers often gain the most customers.
Pursue your Vision
Benjamin Rush was a physician, writer, teacher and politician during the American Revolution and signer of the Declaration of Independence.” According to the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Dr. Rush was the first to recognize mental illness as a disease of the brain rather than as demonic possession, a position that earned him the title of “Father of American Psychiatry.” While many people of the day respected Dr. Rush for his medical skills, others in the medical community did not immediately accept his view on mental health.
You can adapt Benjamin Rush’s leadership style by pursuing your vision, even when others do not believe in you. A researcher can lead his team through a difficult phase in experimentation by showing his colleagues statistics that suggest they are heading in the right direction; a nurse in a university health center can encourage students to receive a flu shot to protect themselves and their classmates, even though most students feel invincible at that age.
Recognize Opportunity in Failure
Professional success is not always clearly labeled – a true leader sees opportunity even in failure. One of the most notable examples of this is Canadian physician Frederick G. Banting, who saved millions of people from the ravages of diabetes when he conceived the idea of extracting insulin from the pancreas. However, Banting did not start out to be a researcher – he merely wanted to establish a medical practice in London, Ontario in Canada but failed miserably. Instead of focusing on his failure, though, Banting threw himself into a medical problem that had plagued a childhood friend and millions of others: diabetes.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, Banting said “…had I not failed in my one year at London, I might never have started my research work…[London] the place of my hours of misery – and yet it was there that I obtained the idea that was to alter every plan that I had ever made. The idea which was to change my future and possibly the future of others.”
Always look for the opportunity to lead others in a new direction, even in the face of abject failure. You never know when you will lead them to even greater opportunity in any profession.
Sandra Mills is a freelance career advancement and healthcare writer.
She writes about a wide range of medical topics, including nutrition, medical technology, and health education.