Recently, a senior leader I had reached out to for leadership mentoring asked me a very insightful question. “What would a younger leader want to learn from a senior leader? What would be helpful?” I shared a few things off the top of my mind, but her question made me think a lot about what I wished I knew to ask myself and/ or others fourteen years ago when I became a system-wide medical director in an academic medical center, straight out of fellowship. This is a worksheet that I wished I worked through in my early years and reviewed periodically along the way, alone as well as with one or more mentors. Here is hoping that early career physician leaders reading this post find it useful.
1. What about leadership work do you find attractive? Why do it? How do you define leadership?
2. What is your strategy for carrying out the work? What skills and tactics come naturally to you? How much are you willing to invest in gaining technical expertise and leadership training? Is anyone else invested in your learning and education?
3. What strengths do you bring to the table as a leader? Do your peers, bosses, ‘followers’ and other stakeholders recognize them as your strengths? Same goes for weaknesses – do people around you compensate for your weaknesses positively and intentionally?
4. What are your vision, mission, values and guiding principles for the work you signed up to do? How do they align with those all around you and your organization?
5. Can you differentiate leadership needs vs. technical needs for a problem you are responsible for solving or the area you are responsible for leading? How will you go about identifying them?
6. This applies to leaders with one or more elements of diversity (gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, language proficiency, foreign-born status, ability, etc.) – how will you connect with others and gain acceptance as a leader? How will you deal with micro- and macro-aggressions, if any, related to diversity?
7. This applies to physicians, particularly in an academic setting – how will you balance your clinical work and academic/ scholarly aspirations with leadership work? Where is the line for you?
8. Who is in your village? Who are the people you will accomplish the leadership work with? Who are your go-to people for discussing ideas and failures in a safe manner?
9. How do you plan to learn about different personalities, behavior preferences, leadership styles, motivations, sources of power, conflict resolution styles, etc. and apply what you learn?
10. How is your success measured and who will measure it? How will you monitor progress towards goal(s)? What is your plan for diagnosing issues as they come up and making course corrections along the way? Who are your shoulders to cry on? Who will keep you honest? How will you seek the feedback you need, and what kind of feedback are you willing to hear?
11. What about your leadership work gives you joy? What keeps you motivated and makes you go back for more? What are you not willing to do? When will you know that the goals of your leadership work are accomplished? How will you know when you are trying too hard? What would make you walk away? What are you willing to do to restore joy in your leadership work?
If there are other questions that come to your mind, please share them here. Thanks for reading and happy leading!