Thursday, June 09, 2022

From Technical Expert to Leader: From Certainty to Vulnerability

Recently, Matt Abrahams conducted a podcast interview with Dr. Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford Medical School (pictured to the left).  Minor described the transition from practicing medicine, and in particular surgery, to becoming a complex institution's leader.  He explained that clinical practice often involves situations in which there is a clear correct answer...and a clear wrong answer.  Leading an organization often means finding yourself in much more ambiguous situations.  Effective leaders recognize that the "right" answer may not be obvious in many circumstances, acknowledge what they don't know about the issue at hand, and invite input from others to help them sort through an ambiguous situation.  Here's an excerpt from this terrific interview:

There is a clear right and wrong with most things in my clinical field. Sure. You know, leadership is very, very different from that. I rarely find myself do I get it right the first time. And I depend upon the feedback of others. And the thing is if, unless this is, you know, a critically important time sensitive decision, and we were faced with many of those during COVID, in those cases, you do the best you can and, and you recalibrate very quickly. In cases that are not as acute as they have been during COVID, you can put up a straw person, you can float an idea, you can express your opinion in your belief about this is the way we think we should go. And some of that will be embraced, some of it won’t, but if you take the feedback. It’s not gonna affect your credibility as a leader.

 It’s very different than a surgical procedure. You wouldn’t want to tell a patient before you do a surgical procedure. You know, I think I’m gonna do it this way today, but that may not work. And so, you know, we’ll then do something different tomorrow or next week. I mean, no one wants to hear that. And for me, that was a recalibration as a leader. And I feel really fortunate to have had both sides represented. And I think it’s made me able to act definitively when the circumstance requires it. And when people around me expect me to act definitively and also to be more graduated and incremental when the situation justifies that approach.

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